Man gets nearly 22 years for $60 million movie funding scheme


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — An Oklahoma man claiming to be a movie financier has been sentenced in Florida to nearly 22 years in federal prison for participating in a scheme to steal more than $60 million from investors and producers seeking funding for Broadway movies and shows.

Jason Van Eman, 44, of Bartlesville, Oklahoma, was sentenced Thursday in federal court in Fort Lauderdale, court records show. A jury found him guilty in May of conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering.

According to court records, Van Eman and co-defendant Benjamin McConley, operating as Weathervane Productions, offered to provide funding to investors and producers seeking funds to produce films, theatrical performances and other projects. McConley and Van Eman promised the victims they would match their cash contributions and use the combined funds to secure financing from financial institutions in South Florida and elsewhere, investigators said.

Benjamin Rafael, a former Wells Fargo bank employee recruited by McConley and Van Eman, aided the scheme by lying to victims about the safety of their funds, prosecutors said. Victims have lost millions of dollars and their contributions have never been matched. Instead of funding projects, the money was transferred to personal and corporate bank accounts and spent on luxury automobiles, watercraft, real estate, stocks, jewelry, home furnishings, designer clothes, hotel rooms and air travel, prosecutors said.

Eman was sentenced Thursday to 21 years and 10 months in prison. On a previous occasion, McConley was sentenced to 13 years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Rafael previously pleaded guilty for his part in the scheme, as well as another case involving fraudulent applications for COVID-19 relief loans. He was sentenced to 3 1/2 three and a half years in prison.

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