MIAMI, FL – A self-described film financier was sentenced Tuesday, September 14, 2021 to 156 months’ imprisonment for orchestrating a scheme to steal over $60 million from investors and producers seeking financing for movies and Broadway shows.
Benjamin Forrest McConley, 39, of Miami, previously admitted his role in running a sophisticated movie financing fraud scheme. McConley pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349.
McConley held himself out as a film producer and financier. In that role, McConley offered to provide financing to investors and producers seeking funds to produce motion pictures, theater performances, and other projects. McConley promised the victims that, in exchange for the victims’ cash contributions, McConley would “match” the contributions and use the combined funds to secure financing from financial institutions in South Florida and elsewhere.
A bank employee recruited by McConley, Benjamin Rafael, furthered the scheme by deceiving victims about the security of their funds. During the course of the scheme, Rafael was directed to falsely assure victims that their contributions or loans had been “matched” as promised in the funding agreements.
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Victims lost millions of dollars based on these false representations and promises. According to authorities, the victims’ contributions were never “matched” as promised in the funding agreements. Instead, McConley stole victims’ money by transferring the funds to personal and corporate bank accounts, often within days of the victims’ contributions or loans. He then spent the victims’ money on luxury automobiles, personal watercraft, real estate, stocks, jewelry, home furnishings, designer clothes, hotel accommodations, and private and commercial air travel.
In addition to the sentence of 156 months’ imprisonment, McConley was ordered to pay restitution to the victims, forfeit money and real estate traceable to the fraud scheme, and serve a term of supervised release of three years. The Court also entered a $69,000,000.00 forfeiture money judgment against McConley.
Co-defendant Rafael previously pled guilty and was sentenced to a combined 42 months’ imprisonment for his involvement in the scheme, as well as another case involving Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) loans he obtained through fraud. Co-defendant Jason Van Eman is scheduled for trial on March 14, 2022. The indictment against Van Eman contains allegations and he is innocent until proven guilty by a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Juan Antonio Gonzalez, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Special Agent in Charge George L. Piro of the FBI’s Miami Field Office, made the announcement. FBI Miami Field Office. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christopher Browne and Elizabeth Young. Assistant U.S. Attorney Marx Calderon is responsible for the asset forfeiture component of the case.