By Ryan Gierach, West Hollywood, California
Robert Matias, 50, of Granada Hills man who had been on the run since February was ordered held in custody this week pending trial with three others, including a West Hollywood man, on federal charges of bilking investors out of nearly $2 million by offering shares in movies that were never made.
Mr. Matias was arrested Monday at a relative’s house in Los Angeles after going on the lam in February, federal prosecutors said. He pleaded not guilty on Monday to multiple counts of mail fraud, wire fraud, attempted wire fraud and making false statements, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The indictment alleges that attorney Samuel Braslau, 53, of Mar Vista, Rand Jay Chortkoff, 64, of Encino, Stuart Rawitt, 47, of West Hollywood, and Matias collectively caused about 70 investors nationwide to lose nearly $1.8 million.
Braslau, Chortkoff and Rawitt previously entered not guilty pleas and were released on bond, pending trial in November.
Prosecutors contend the defendants raised money for a film called “The Smuggler” through a boiler room telemarketing operation in Van Nuys after first representing themselves as researchers.
Victims were falsely told that 64 percent of investor money would be used to produce the film, and that investors would be first in line to receive any revenue, according to court papers, which allege that the defendants also falsely claimed to have contracted such actors as John Cusack, Gerard Butler, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Donald Sutherland and Jon Voight to appear in “The Smuggler.”
The wire fraud and mail charges each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.
The case was contained in a 29-count indictment relating to two companies — Mutual Entertainment LLC and Film Shoot LLC. Four defendants related to this scheme are charged with mail fraud, wire fraud, attempted wire fraud and making false statements.