Aviron Pictures CEO William Sadleir Pleads Guilty To Felony Fraud, Money Laundering In PPP Scam

A federal guilty plea agreement was entered today by William Sadleir, the former chief executive of Aviron Pictures, who admitted that he applied for and received $1.7 million in loans under the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). That while the entire Aviron operation was being shuttered as a result of his prior embezzlement.

The plea in United States District Court saw Sadleir, 67, of Beverly Hills, agree to plead guilty to one count of bank fraud and one count of money laundering. Sadleir is scheduled to formally enter the guilty pleas on March 16.

Sadlier had six credits as an executive producer between 2017 and 2019. His most notable was the 2019 Serenity, starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway and Diane Lane, and the 2018 comedy Destination Wedding, starring Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves and DJ Dallenbach.

The US attorney’s office said Sadleir filed bank loan applications that fraudulently sought more than $1.7 million dollars in forgivable PPP loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

According to court documents, Sadleir obtained the loans for three Aviron entities by falsely representing that the funds would be used to support payroll expenses for 33 employees at each company, when, in fact, the entities were no longer operational.

Within days of the loans being funded on May 1, 2020, Sandleir transferred nearly $1 million to his personal checking account.

Sadleir “expended a substantial amount of the fraudulent loan proceeds on utility bills, mortgage expenses, and his personal attorney, among other things,” he admitted in his plea agreement. Sandleir “did not use any of the fraudulent loan proceeds to pay employees of the Aviron companies.”

Following the discovery of the fraudulent loan applications, federal agents seized $308,058 of fraudulent loan proceeds from an Aviron account, and Sandleir returned $1,122,090 to the bank that funded the loans. As a result of the fraudulent PPP loan scheme, the SBA suffered losses of $282,566. In his plea agreement, Sandleir agreed to pay full restitution.

Sandleir will face a statutory maximum sentence of 50 years in federal prison when he pleads guilty. Prosecutors have agreed to recommend that whatever sentence is imposed should run concurrent with a sentence to be imposed in a pending case in the Southern District of New York.

In that case, Sandleir is scheduled to be sentenced in the New York case on May 10 after he pleaded guilty in January to wire fraud for misappropriating more than $25 million that had been invested in Aviron.

The Los Angeles case was investigated by the FBI, the SBA’s Office of Inspector General, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s Office of Inspector Genera. Assistant United States Attorney Gregory Bernstein of the Major Frauds Section is prosecuting this case.

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