Movie producer gets six years for scamming millions from BlackRock

A Hollywood producer will spend six years in federal prison for scamming a BlackRock Inc. trust out of more than $30 million it invested in his company.

William Sadleir, 68, was sentenced on Friday by US District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer in Manhattan, who also ordered him to pay nearly $32 million in forfeiture and restitution.

Sadleir pleaded guilty in January to two counts of wire fraud for diverting a part of the $75 million that the BlackRock Multi-Sector Income Trust had put into his film production and distribution company, Aviron Group LLC. Aviron participated in the distribution of films including “My All-American,” “Kidnap” and “The Strangers: Prey at Night.”

Prosecutors said Sadleir promised BlackRock that some of the money had been invested in prepaid media credits with a unit of advertising agency GroupM Worldwide, when he actually had sent $25 million to a fake company he had created. He then used some of the money to buy a seven-bedroom Beverly Hills mansion featured in Architectural Digest, make payments on a Tesla Model X and charter a private jet.

The government said Sadleir tried to conceal his scheme in part by pretending to be a female advertising executive at Aviron. He claimed to be on maternity leave when BlackRock made inquiries about its investment.

Sadleir also forced the signatures of BlackRock personnel to authorize the release of around $3 million in liens on intellectual property and other assets relating to the company’s films that the trust had used to secure its Aviron investment.

He was the chairman and chief executive officer of Aviron from 2015 until December 2019, when he lost control of the company after defaulting on a BlackRock note.

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