COVID Feature: Not A Pretty Picture

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Russian hacker hacking the server in the dark

The federal government has doled out billions of dollars in COVID-19 economic stimulus funding and is coming down hard on those who try to defraud the program – even a Hollywood movie producer.

FBI agents arrested former Aviron Pictures Chairman William Sadleir for wire fraud, bank fraud, making false statements to a financial institution, and making false statements to the SBA. While this arrest took place in Beverly Hills, Sadleir also faces separate charges in New York for wire fraud and identity theft. (Talk about having a bad week. Sadlier will have to face trial in both states for his laundry list of charges.)

The charges Sadleir faces in Los Angeles are the result of him allegedly taking advantage of the CARES Act, meant to provide financial assistance to businesses impacted by COVID-19. Sadleir stands accused of obtaining three loans through the Small Business Administration under the guise of using the money for payroll expenses for Aviron.

The FBI claims that the loans Sadleir took out were instead used to bankroll his lifestyle. Sadleir allegedly transferred $1 million dollars of the loan money into his personal account and used some of it to pay off credit card bills and make car loan payments. The government has protections in place to detect fraud related to the CARES Act and abuse of guaranteed loans. Sadleir could face up to 82 years in prison if he is found guilty of various fraud charges. (Unlike his new car, prison won’t be a joy ride.)

This is not the only case pending against Sadleir in which he stands accused of misusing funds for personal expenses. In New York, the Securities and Exchange Commission is suing Sadlier for fraudulent behavior including allegedly abusing $13.8 million dollars of investor funds that were intended to finance Aviron Pictures. (Not only could Sadlier do prison time, he could owe millions of dollars.)  

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from an article, “Hollywood producer charged with $1.7 million COVID-19 Paycheck Protection Program fraud,” posted on fox35orlando.com on May 22, 2020.

LOS ANGELES – The former head of a Hollywood production and distribution company was arrested Friday on federal charges alleging he attempted to swindle the coronavirus-relief Paycheck Protection Program out of about $1.7 million.

William Sadleir, 66, was taken into custody without incident and was expected to make his initial federal court appearance Friday afternoon in downtown Los Angeles, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.