Aviron Pictures Founder William Sadleir Arrested In $1.7M COVID-19 Scam

The ousted chairman of Aviron Pictures was arrested today on federal fraud charges for using $1.7 million in the federal government’s coronavirus-relief Paycheck Protection Program funds for his personal use.

William Sadleir was taken into custody without incident by FBI agents and other federal officials, the Department of Justice revealed. He allegedly filed applications for loans under the names of various Aviron entities through JPMorgan Chase – but not for the reasons he stated.

The complaint, which was filed Thursday and unsealed after his arrest today, charges Sadleir with wire fraud, bank fraud, making false statements to a financial institution, and making false statements to the Small Business Administration.

Sadleir, 66, of Beverly Hills, is expected to make his initial court appearance today in downtown Los Angeles. The four charges carry a collective maximum statutory penalty of 82 years in federal prison.

“This film producer allegedly made a series of misrepresentations to a bank and the Small Business Administration to illegally secure taxpayer money that he then used to fund his nearly empty personal bank account,” said U.S Attorney Nick Hanna on Friday in a statement “The Paycheck Protection Program was implemented to help small businesses stay afloat during the financial crisis, and we will act swiftly against those who abuse the program for their own personal gain.”

DOJ said Sadleir allegedly obtained the forgivable loans by falsely representing that the funds would be used to support payroll expenses, when, in fact, Sadleir intended to use and did use a significant portion of the funds for personal and non-business-related expenses.

“This defendant allegedly used Paycheck Protection Program loans to pay off his personal credit card debts and other personal expenses, rather than using the funds for legitimate business needs,” added Brian Benczkowski, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “As the department has made clear, those who defraud the PPP to line their own pockets at the expense of the American people will be brought to justice.”

Following a late 2019 lawsuit alleging impropriety in the company structure, Sanlier exited from his role as the operating manager of Aviron Pictures, a subsidiary of Aviron Group, in January of this year.

The case against Sadleir is being investigated by the FBI, the Small Business Administration’s Office of Inspector General and the FDIC Office of Inspector General.

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