LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – A Beverly Hills man and the founder of independent Hollywood film distribution company Aviron Pictures was arrested Friday by the FBI on allegations that he fraudulently received $1.7 million through the federal government’s paycheck protection program.
William Sadleir, 66, allegedly applied for and received the money on behalf of Aviron Pictures, even though he was fired from the company in late 2019.
According to the Justice Department, Sadleir received three different PPP loans worth a total of $1.7 million for three different Aviron entities.
Within days of the loans being approved by JPMorgan Chase and wired, about $1 million were then diverted into Sadleir’s personal accounts, which he used to pay off credit cards, car loans and for other personal expenses for himself and his wife, the U.S. Attorney’s Office reports.
“These funds were designed to be a lifeline to businesses struggling to stay afloat during the current crisis,” said Paul Delacourt, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “The FBI is committed to maintaining the integrity of the PPP and will hold accountable those who cheat the system at the expense of American taxpayers.”
Sadleir was taken into custody on charges of wire fraud, bank fraud, making false statements to a financial institution, and making false statements to the Small Business Administration.
He is also facing separate federal charges out of New York on allegations he stole $30 million from an investor while he was with Aviron Pictures, according to Variety.
Since being founded in 2017, Aviron has distributed several films, including “A Private War,” “Serenity” and “Destination Wedding.”
The PPP program has faced serious criticism over allegations that large companies were able to obtain loans while small businesses fell through the cracks.
The Los Angeles Lakers – one of the richest sports franchises in the world – somehow obtained a $4.6 million in PPP money last month.
The $349 billion PPP program money – which was approved as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) in late March — dried up so quickly that Congress was forced to pass a second relief package in April which includes another $310 billion.