BEVERLY HILLS – Aviron Pictures founder William Sadleir, 66, was arrested on Friday May 22 on federal fraud charges. The charges allege that Sadleir requested $ 1.7 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans to falsely certify that the funds would be used to finance the operations of other Rowing entities while that they were actually used to finance his personal expenses.
The Paycheque Protection Program is a loan under the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security). It is designed as a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll. The US Small Business Administration will cancel loans if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities. Neither the government nor the lenders will charge small businesses a fee.
The lawsuit filed against the defendant accuses him of electronic fraud, bank fraud, misrepresentation to a financial institution and misrepresentation to the Small Business Administration. According to the affidavit in support of the complaint, Sadleir submitted PPP loan applications through JPMorgan Chase on behalf of Rowing Group, LLC. The bank approved the loans and Sadleir received more than $ 1.7 million.
Avrion has produced films such as:
- Serenity (2019) with actress Anne Hathaway and actor Matthew McConaughey
- A Private War (2018) with actress Rosamund Pike and actor Jamie Dornan
- The Informer (2019) with actor Joel Kinnaman and actor Jamie Dornan
- Abduction (2017) starring actress Halle Berry.
“Immediately after receiving the funds, a significant amount was diverted to Sadleir’s personal accounts and used for his personal expenses,” the complaint claims. The defendant allegedly used the PPP loan funds to pay off his personal credit card debts and other personal expenses.
Sadleir was fired from Aviron Pictures in late 2019, and people associated with the film production company revealed to investigators that the defendant currently has no role in Aviron Pictures or related entities. The authorities linked Sadleir to the three PPP loan applications made on behalf of the three Aviron entities. All three claims claimed that each company had 33 employees and monthly payroll costs well over $ 200,000.
The filed complaint alleges that on April 30, 2020, JPMorgan Chase approved the loan applications. On April 31, the funds were transferred and nearly emptied the JPMorgan Chase bank accounts associated with the three entities. Within days, nearly $ 1 million of the PPP loan money was transferred to Sadleir’s personal account at JPMorgan Chase.
Investigators determined that some of this money was used to pay for personal expenses, including payments to Sadleir and his wife’s American Express cards. A payment allegedly made with the proceeds of the PPP loan was a payment of $ 40,000 on Sadleir’s car loan.
The four charges alleged in this criminal complaint collectively carry a maximum legal sentence of 82 years in federal prison. The case against Sadleir is being investigated by the FBI, the Office of the Inspector General of the SBA and the Office of the Inspector General of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. This case is being pursued by Deputy United States Attorney Alex Wyman of the Major Fraud Section and Department of Justice Lawyer Amanda R. Vaughn of the Fraud Section of the Criminal Division.
Anyone with information about allegations of fraud related to COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Enforcement at 866-720-5721 or through the complaint form in NCDF line at the following address: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.