He once oversaw the visits of foreign heads of state meeting with President Ronald Reagan, helped vet candidates for presidential appointments, and later helmed a major Hollywood film distribution company.
Now, William Sadleir is heading to federal prison after admitting that he defrauded a New York investment fund out of millions, according to the US Attorney's Office in the Southern District.
Sadleir, age 68, of Beverly Hills, California, was sentenced to six years behind bars Friday, Sept. 9, in a Manhattan federal courtroom.
It followed his January 2022 guilty plea to two counts of wire fraud.
Federal prosecutors said Sadleir, who was the chairman and CEO of Aviron Pictures from 2015 to 2019, took part in two fraud schemes tied to an approximately $75 million investment that the fund made in Aviron.
They included creating a sham advertising company, along with a corresponding bank account in the name of the fake company, prosecutors said.
The investment fund poured millions of dollars into Aviron, which Sadleir led them to believe was being invested in pre-paid media credits with the advertising placement company MediaCom Worldwide, a subsidiary of GroupM Worldwide.
Instead, prosecutors argued that Sadleir illicitly transferred over $25 million of those funds out of Aviron using the bank account for his sham entity.
A significant portion went toward personal expenses, including the purchase of a private mansion in Beverly Hills for approximately $14 million.
Prosecutors said Sadleir lied to the investment fund, claiming that Aviron had bought nearly $27 million worth of pre-paid media credits with MediaCom that would be used to promote future Aviron films.
He then pledged a portion of those credits, which didn’t exist, to the fund as collateral for additional loans.
Illustrating the lengths of his deception, prosecutors described how Sadleir assumed the identity of a made-up female employee of the sham company, named Amanda Stevens, who corresponded with the fund.
Posing as “Amanda” in email exchanges, Sadleir assured the investment fund that Aviron had an approximately $27 million balance in pre-paid media credits with the company.
At one point, he attempted to dodge questions about his fraudulent conduct by claiming that “Amanda” was on maternity leave, prosecutors said.
Investigators also uncovered another scheme in which Sadleir engineered the fraudulent sale and refinancing of assets worth over $3 million that helped secure the fund’s loans to Aviron.
According to prosecutors, he used the forged signature of one of the fund’s portfolio managers on releases to remove the fund’s UCC liens on certain secured assets.
He did so, prosecutors argued, in order to sell or refinance the assets without the fund’s consent and deprive the fund of its collateral on outstanding loans. Aviron later defaulted on those loans.
“William Sadleir portrayed himself as a successful Hollywood mogul, but behind the scenes he engaged in brazen and calculated schemes to defraud a New York investment fund out of over $30 million using a fake company, fake documents, and even a fake identity,” US Attorney Damian Williams said.
“Today’s sentence holds Sadleir accountable for his crimes, and sends a message that there will be no happy ending for executives who defraud their investors.”
In addition to his time behind bars, a judge ordered Sadleir to complete three years of post-release supervision and pay $31,597,000 in forfeiture and restitution.
In 1982, President Ronald Reagan appointed Sadleir as Special Assistant to the President and Director of Presidential Appointments and Scheduling.
Reagan later named him Deputy Chief of Protocol, where, among other duties, he coordinated the visits of international dignitaries meeting with the president and accompanied delegations representing the president at official ceremonies abroad.
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