In a town where handshakes and words often suffice for written contracts, it's easy to see how an alleged scam like this could go down.
Two L.A. area men were arrested today on suspicion of running a “boiler room” operation that raised $300,000 for films that weren't produced, featuring stars that weren't “attached.”
Britney Spears, Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Hudson and Nick Nolte were said to be committed to one of the movies, to called There for Hope.
Except they had nothing to do with it, feds say.
Bart Douglas Slanaker, 42, of Panorama City, and Joseph Roth, 57, of Santa
Monica, were arrested on suspicion of federal mail fraud.
A “boiler room” office in North Hills was apparently used to cold call potential investors, according to federal documents filed in the case. (An office on West Sixth Street in Koreatown was also searched).
Feds say the duo were at it for the last seven months and used the money they raised as personal spending cash.
The FBI was also looking at the duo in connection with other movie investment scams.
The pair could see 20 years each if convicted.
Allegedly duped investors were told that filming on There for Hope would start this May and that Robert Duvall was joining the cast in place of a role that would have been played by Martin Sheen, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office federal criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in L.A.
After investigators contacted the actors' reps, none could confirm the attachments to teh film, according to the complaint.
Undercover agents posed as investors. One was told by a salesman that “within two years, you should easily, easily, just through distribution revenue, triple your money.”
That salesman told the agent he was a co-producer on The Last Samurai with Tom Cruise.
If there's a lesson in all this, it's always check IMDB before writing five figure checks to (allegedly) sleazy producers you know nothing about.