Fraudster Jason Van Eman, who posed as an independent entertainment producer in an effort to deceive investors, was sentenced to 262 months in prison on Thursday by a federal court judge in Miami, Florida.
The 44-year-old former actor and alleged producer from Bartlesville, Oklahoma, was convicted for his role in a financing scheme that defrauded investors out of more than $60 million. The defendant was also ordered to pay certain victims more than $9 million in restitution.
The sentencing comes after a federal jury in May found Van Eman guilty of conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering.
According to the evidence, Van Eman presented himself as a film producer and financier, offering to finance independent films, Broadway shows, music festivals and other productions. Van Eman promised the victims (producers and others seeking funding) that his partner (a co-conspirator named Benjamin McConley) would match any money the victims contributed to their projects.
Then, with the combined seed capital (which made the projects more attractive to investors), McConley would apply for and obtain financing from financial institutions.
Based on these lies, the victims sent over $60 million to accounts controlled by the scammers. Contrary to what Van Eman promised the victims, his partner never matched their cash contributions or asked for funding. Instead, Van Eman and his accomplices stole the victims’ money by transferring it to their personal and corporate bank accounts, often within days of deposit.
To make the scam more believable, Van Eman and McConley recruited Benjamin Rafael, a bank clerk, whose role was to assure victims that their cash contributions had been matched and that their money was safe – which didn’t was not true.
Van Eman, McConley and Rafael used the stolen money to purchase luxury automobiles, watercraft, real estate, jewelry, home furnishings, designer clothing, hotel rooms and private air travel and commercial. Van Eman used some of the stolen money to finance films in which he was cast.
Juan Antonio Gonzalez, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and John J. Bernardo, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), announced the sentence handed down by U.S. District Judge Raag Singhal .
The FBI Field Division in Miami investigated this case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christopher Browne and Yisel Valdes prosecuted him. Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily Stone handles the asset forfeiture.