Stuart Rawitt, a veteran telemarketer known for his ability to close investment deals, was sentenced Monday to five years in prison for his role in a movie scam.
Rawitt, 47, of Marina del Rey, pleaded guilty to defrauding investors in The Smuggler. The film was supposed to depict a martial-arts master who cares for an orphan and fights Nazis in occupied Paris. According to a complaint, Rawitt told prospective investors that it would star Jean-Claude Van Damme, Tim Roth, Sean Bean and Donald Sutherland.
Rawitt and his co-defendants, Rand Chortkoff and Samuel Braslau, raised about $1.8 million from 60 investors. The film was never made, no script was completed, and none of the actors were ever approached to participate.
In a declaration accompanying his plea agreement, Rawitt admitted making most of the false statements attributed to him.
"However, I did not 'know' that any of these statements were, in fact, false, because ... I chose not to know," Rawitt stated. "They sounded like good selling points to me and since I was hired solely to raise funds... I used them as selling points without questioning whether there was any basis in fact for them."
In pleading guilty, Rawitt admitted he knew that the statements were probably false.
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Rawitt was paid a 27 percent commission on money he raised, earning about $227,000. Braslau was accused of pocketing $270,000 in legal fees and other expenses. After commissions and other fundraising expenses were paid, the company was left with a mere $2,241.
Shortly after pleading guilty, Rawitt tested positive for cocaine. His attorney, Bernard Rosen, argued for a lighter sentence based on his history of drug abuse. According to letters written by Rawitt's friends, he was active in Alcoholics Anonymous and had relapsed after a period of sobriety due to a bad break-up.
Chortkoff also pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing. Braslau was convicted by a jury and is due to be sentenced in March.
With reporting by City News Service.