William Sadleir, recently ousted chair of indie distributor Aviron Pictures, arrested on federal corruption charges.
By Kerry Slater
A Beverly Hills man–the recently ousted chair of a major indie studio–has been arrested by the FBI for pocketing a portion of a $1.7 million Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan to pay off personal credit card debts, among other personal expenses.
On Thursday William Sadleir, 66, of Beverly Hills, was taken into custody without incident by special agents with the FBI, the Small Business Administration’s Office of Inspector General (SBA OIG), and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Office of Inspector General (FDIC OIG).
Sadleir–the recently ousted head of Aviron Pictures–was arrested pursuant to a criminal complaint that accuses him of fraudulently filing bank loan applications that sought more than $1.7 million dollars in forgivable PPP loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Sadleir allegedly obtained the forgivable loans by falsely representing that the funds would be used to support payroll expenses, when, in fact, Sadleir intended to use and did use a significant portion of the funds for personal and non-business-related expenses.
“This film producer allegedly made a series of misrepresentations to a bank and the Small Business Administration to illegally secure taxpayer money that he then used to fund his nearly empty personal bank account,” said United States Attorney Nick Hanna.
The complaint, which was filed Thursday and unsealed after his arrest today, charges Sadleir with wire fraud, bank fraud, making false statements to a financial institution, and making false statements to the Small Business Administration.
According to the affidavit in support of the complaint, Sadleir last month caused applications for PPP loans to be submitted to JPMorgan Chase on behalf of Aviron Group, LLC; Aviron Licensing, LLC; and Aviron Releasing, LLC dba Regatta. The bank approved the loans, and Sadleir received more than $1.7 million. “[I]mmediately upon receiving the funds a significant amount was diverted to Sadleir’s personal accounts and used for personal expenses,” the complaint alleges.
“This defendant allegedly used Paycheck Protection Program loans to pay off his personal credit card debts and other personal expenses, rather than using the funds for legitimate business needs,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “As the department has made clear, those who defraud the PPP to line their own pockets at the expense of the American people will be brought to justice.”
Sadleir was terminated from Aviron Pictures in late 2019, and people associated with the film production company told investigators that Sadleir currently had no role in Aviron Pictures or the related entities, according to the affidavit, which notes that Aviron Group, Aviron Licensing and Aviron Releasing are not engaged in any ongoing operations.
Authorities have linked Sadleir to the three PPP loan applications made on behalf of the three Aviron entities. All three applications claimed each company had 33 employees and monthly payroll expenses of well over $200,000. On April 30, JPMorgan Chase approved the loan applications, and the next day money was wired to nearly empty JPMorgan Chase bank accounts associated with the three entities.
Within days, nearly $1 million of the PPP loan money was transferred into Sadleir’s personal account at JPMorgan Chase, the affidavit alleges. Investigators have determined that some of this money was used to pay personal expenses, including payments to Sadleir’s and his wife’s American Express cards. One payment allegedly made with PPP loan proceeds – a $40,000 payment on Sadleir’s car loan – was reversed and JPChase Morgan froze the accounts associated with the alleged scheme.
The four charges alleged in the criminal complaint collectively carry a maximum statutory penalty of 82 years in federal prison.