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Hollywood producer Drew Levin pleads guilty to fraud

A Hollywood producer and businessman pleaded guilty Thursday in Los Angeles to federal charges of stock fraud and bilking an investor.

Drew Savitch Levin, 57, of Pacific Palisades, conspired to inflate the revenue and stock price of Team Communications Group, Inc., a West Los Angeles-based company that Levin founded and for which he served as CEO until early 2001, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

In a second case involving wire fraud, Levin had e-mailed “bogus bank documentation” that purported to show that he had repaid 80,000 euros to a French investor. The victim had put money into a separate Levin company in 2008.

A biography submitted by one of his companies to the Internet Movie Database calls Levin “an Emmy and Cable Ace Award-winning producer, who executive-produced more than 3,000 hours of critically acclaimed reality-based and dramatic television series for U.S. networks, cable outlets, and international broadcast venues.” It adds that “Levin has produced and distributed all forms of media properties to more than 100 countries worldwide.”

The biography lists credits that include "Future Quest" for PBS; "Cosmos: A Special Edition" hosted by astronomer Carl Sagan; "Shadow Theater" hosted by Robert Englund; "The World's Most Mysterious Places" for Discovery; and "Stephen King's World of Horror" for MTV. Movie-of-the-week credits include "The Matthew Shepard Story" for MTV.

U.S. District Judge Dean D. Pregerson, who could accept or reject the plea, has scheduled a sentencing hearing for Nov. 18. The guilty plea would mandate a seven-year prison term. The plea agreement also calls for Levin to pay more than $2 million in restitution to victims in the United States, France, Austria, England and Switzerland.

The later fraud, involving the French investor, occurred when Levin was free on bond in the Team Communications case, for which charges were filed in 2008.

Levin got into trouble a third time while on bond for violating an unspecified condition of his release, the U.S. attorney’s office said. He’s been in custody since that last incident.

Team Communications, whose shares traded on the Nasdaq  stock exchange, produced and distributed television programming.

“Levin perpetrated a scheme to falsely overstate Team’s revenues to make the company appear to be profitable, when in fact it was operating at a substantial loss,” the U.S. attorney’s office stated.

Levin even pocketed a $335,000 bonus based on Team Communication’s claimed profits and pledged shares of the company as collateral on a loan to purchase a $1.5-million ranch in Big Sky, Mont., the government asserted.

“In 2001, Team restated its 1999 fiscal results, going from a profit of nearly $1.8 million to a loss of $4.25 million,” the U.S. attorney’s office said. “For 2000, Team reported a loss of more than $42 million. Team filed for bankruptcy protection in 2002.”

A former Levin associate, Noel Desmond Cronin, 63, of Herts, England, previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy for helping Levin commit fraud. Cronin, who cooperated in the case against Levin, also awaits sentencing.

The investigation was conducted by the FBI,  the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Investigators from other countries also assisted.

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-- Howard Blume

 

 
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