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.
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.