Former film producer Jason Van Eman found guilty in $60 million fraud scheme

Film producer Jason Van Eman convinced numerous victims that their multi-millions of dollars in donations would finance movies, Broadway shows and music festivals. But in reality, their money was going into his bank accounts and the bank accounts of two other convicted fraudsters.

A federal jury in Fort Lauderdale found Van Eman guilty of conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering, prosecutors announced Tuesday. He will be sentenced in July and could spend several decades in prison.

Van Eman, 44, of Bartlesville, Okla., told movie producers and other investors that their cash contributions would be matched by his partner Benjamin Forrest McConley “dollar-for-dollar,” according to court records, and used to secure funding for the productions. The victims’ contributions were never matched.

Van Eman and McConley told victims their money would be deposited into secure bank accounts. But those stolen millions of dollars were then transferred to Van Eman and McConley’s personal and corporate bank accounts within days of getting the money, prosecutors said.

They recruited a Wells Fargo employee Benjamin Rafael to “deceive victims about the security of their funds,” court records say. Rafael was fired from the bank in 2015, but Van Eman and McConley continued to convince victims that Rafael still worked there.

Some victims started to demand they get their money back. Van Eman and McConley “usually refused,” court records say, causing several to file civil lawsuits against the two. While those lawsuits were pending, Van Eman and McConley continued to find victims, and they then used those later victims’ money to settle the lawsuits and pay attorney fees.

Van Eman and McConley used “an online reputation management firm” to “suppress or hide negative information” about them relating to the lawsuits and legal actions, records say. Occasionally they would repay some of the earlier victims who demanded their money back with later victims’ money.

The over $60 million the three men got through their fraud scheme went toward designer clothes, hotels, plane tickets, luxury cars, jewelry, real estate, furniture and watercraft, according to prosecutors. Van Eman used some of the money to fund movies he was cast in.

An indictment says the defendants will have to forfeit at least four homes — three purchased in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and one in Tallahassee.

McConley was sentenced to 13 years in prison for his part in the fraud scheme in September after pleading guilty. Rafael has been sentenced to 3-and-a-half years in prison for his role in the film fraud scheme and for lying about his criminal history on a COVID-19 relief application, prosecutors said.

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