Man Gets Nearly 22 Years For $60M Film Finance Fraud Scheme

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — An Oklahoma man claiming to be a film financier has been sentenced in Florida to nearly 22 years in federal prison for participating in a scheme to steal more than $60 million from investors and producers seeking financing for movies and Broadway shows.

Jason Van Eman, 44, of Bartlesville, Oklahoma, was sentenced Thursday in Fort Lauderdale federal court, according to court records. A jury found him guilty in May of conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering.

According to court records, Van Eman and co-defendant Benjamin McConley, operating as Weathervane Productions, offered to provide financing to investors and producers seeking funds to produce motion pictures, theater performances and other projects. McConley and Van Eman promised the victims they would match their cash contributions and use the combined funds to secure financing from financial institutions in South Florida and elsewhere, investigators said.

Benjamin Rafael, a former Wells Fargo bank employee recruited by McConley and Van Eman, furthered the scheme by lying to victims about the security of their funds, prosecutors said. Victims lost millions of dollars and their contributions were never matched. Instead of financing projects, the money was transferred to personal and corporate bank accounts and spent on luxury automobiles, personal watercraft, real estate, stocks, jewelry, home furnishings, designer clothes, hotel accommodations and air travel, prosecutors said.

Eman was sentenced on Thursday to 21 years and 10 months in prison. On a previous occasion, McConley was sentenced to 13 years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Rafael previously pleaded guilty to his part in the scheme, as well as another case involving fraudulent applications for COVID-19 relief loans. He was sentenced to 3 1/2 three and a half years in prison.