Former Hollywood executive gets 6 years in prison for defrauding BlackRock fund

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NEW YORK, Sept 9 (Reuters) – The former head of a Hollywood film distributor whose films have starred actors such as Halle Berry and Matthew McConaughey was sentenced to six years in prison on Friday after pleading guilty to defrauded BlackRock Inc (BLK.N) investment fund.

William Sadleir, who ran Aviron Pictures LLC, was convicted by U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer in Manhattan, and was also ordered to pay $31.6 million in forfeiture and restitution.

Sadleir, 68, of Beverly Hills, pleaded guilty in January to two counts of wire fraud relating to schemes related to the BlackRock Multi-Sector Income Trust Fund, which invested $75 million in Aviron.

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Prosecutors said Sadleir misappropriated more than $25 million, including to buy a $14 million mansion in Beverly Hills, claiming it was invested in prepaid media credits, and posing as the advertising executive “Amanda Stevens” to email BlackRock.

They said Sadleir forged the signature of a BlackRock official for the sale of more than $3 million in assets that secured BlackRock’s loans to Aviron, which then defaulted on those loans.

Sadleir pleaded guilty in March to receiving $1.7 million in federal Paycheck Protection Program loans allegedly to help Aviron pay workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, though the company has already closed its doors.

Sentencing in that case is scheduled for September 28 in federal court in Los Angeles. Prosecutors said they would recommend the sentence be served concurrently with Manhattan’s sentence.

Sadleir’s lawyers had urged Engelmayer not to impose a prison sentence, saying the father of two young boys was ‘deeply sorry and embarrassed by his crimes’ and there was ‘no chance’ of a recurrence.

“Mr. Sadleir is obviously disappointed with today’s sentence, but accepts the judgment of the court,” his attorney Matthew Schwartz said in an email. Sadleir also apologized to his family and Aviron employees, Schwartz added.

Rowing’s films included “Kidnap” by Berry and “Serenity” by McConaughey and Anne Hathaway.

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Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York Editing by Marguerita Choy and Leslie Adler

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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