LOS ANGELES – March 8 2012 – The last of nine defendants facing trial next week on federal fraud charges stemming from boiler room operations that solicited investments in independent movies pleaded guilty in federal district court yesterday afternoon, admitting that he participated in a conspiracy to defraud investors that included false promises of up to 1,000 percent returns and misrepresentations as to how investor funds would be used.
Defendant Robert Ramirez, 45, of Lake View Terrace, pleaded guilty before the Honorable John F. Walter, United States District Judge, to one count charging him with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, and the sale of unregistered securities. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of 5 years.
Defendant Ramirez was the last of the defendants in this case to plead guilty before the scheduled March 13 trial. The other defendants in this case all pleaded guilty earlier in the weeks and months leading up to trial.
The thirty-three count indictment, filed June 15, 2011, focuses on Q Media Assets LLC, an independent movie company operated by Michael D. Sellers, the former CIA operative who had already pleaded guilty and is identified in the indictment as “co-conspirator #1.” The indictment alleges that telemarketers for Q Media fraudulently raised funds for films called “Eye of the Dolphin” and its sequel, “Way of the Dolphin” (which was later called “Beneath the Blue”). Telemarketers associated with Q Media used “lead lists” purchased by Sellers from the San Clemente company, American Investment Strategies, owned by defendant Joel Lee Craft, Jr. According to the indictment, telemarketing “closers” told investors that they were producers of the Dolphin movies, and they “often touted [Sellers’] background as a former clandestine officer with the CIA in order to assure victim investors that representations in the solicitation materials and statements by the closers were true and investments in the Dolphin Movies were safe.” The telemarketers seeking investments in the Dolphin movies allegedly “made material misrepresentations, told material half-truths, and concealed material facts, when speaking to investors,” specifically concealing information about commissions and promising returns of up to 1,000 percent.
The defendants in the Q Media case raised approximately $5 million for “Eye of the Dolphin” and about $4 million for “Way of the Dolphin” from about 250 investors. “Eye of the Dolphin” made about $70,000 in ticket sales in its theatrical release, while “Way of the Dolphin” went straight to video.
The defendants who have pleaded guilty and their scheduled sentencing dates are as follows:
● James Lloyd, 48, of Lake Arrowhead, pleaded guilty on February 29, 2012, to one count of mail fraud and will be sentenced on June 25, 2012 ;
● Allen Agler, 55, of Canyon Country, pleaded guilty on December 9, 2011, to one count of conspiracy and one count of wire fraud and will be sentenced on July 9, 2012;
● Joel Lee Craft, Jr., 42, of San Clemente, pleaded guilty on January 30, 2012, to one count of conspiracy, one count of mail fraud, and one count of tax evasion, and will be sentenced on August 6, 2012;
● Robert Keskemety, 58, of Hallandale Beach, Florida, pleaded guilty on March 2, 2012, to one count of mail fraud and will be sentenced on May 14, 2012;
● Jady Laurence Herrmann, 35, of Lake Arrowhead, pleaded guilty on March 6, 2012, to one count of conspiracy and will be sentenced on June 11, 2012;
● Joseph McCarthy, 38, of Boynton Beach, Florida, pleaded guilty on December 19, 2011, to one count of mail fraud and will be sentenced on June 18, 2012;
● Matthew Bryan Wellman-Mackin, 31, of Manhattan Beach, pleaded guilty on February 22, 2012, to one count of selling unregistered securities and will be sentenced on May 14, 2012;
● Daniel Morabito, 38, of Hermosa Beach, pleaded guilty February 28, 2012, to one count of conspiracy in the related case, U.S. v. Toll et al, CR 11-542-JFW, also filed June 15, 2011, and agreed to pay restitution in this case. Morabito will be sentenced on May 21, 2012.
Defendants Agler and Craft also pleaded guilty to charges in the related Toll case. Agler pleaded guilty in that case to one count of wire fraud, and Craft pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of wire fraud.
The mail fraud and wire fraud charges each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years, and the conspiracy and sale of unregistered securities charges each carry a maximum sentence of 5 years.
The remaining defendants in the Toll case, including defendant Lloyd, remain set for trial on May 15, 2012.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
The investigation into fraudulent boiler rooms raising money for independent movies is being conducted by special agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and IRS – Criminal Investigation.
CONTACT: Assistant United States Attorney Stephen A. Cazares
Major Frauds Section
Assistant United States Attorney Ellyn M. Lindsay
Major Frauds Section