Two people have been arrested and charged with operating what’s being described as an elaborate movie investment scheme in which they allegedly bilked investors out of $21 million.
The Los Angeles Times reports: “Michelle Kenen Seward, 42, of Flintridge; and Dror Soref, 75, of Los Angeles were arrested on Sept. 11 and charged with operating a ‘Ponzi scheme’ to raise funds for several films, acccording to a statement from the California Department of Insurance.”
Seward is “a former licensed insurance agent and chief executive of Protégé Financial and Insurance Services Inc. and Saxe-Coburg Insurance Solutions LLC,” the paper reports. She allegedly convinced her clients to cash in their annuities early and invest their life savings in the 2009 movie “Not Forgotten,” directed by Soref. The indie thriller starrred Simon Baker and Paz Vega, the Times notes.
“Neither Seward nor Soref were licensed to sell securities or provide investment advice, the insurance department found,” the story reports. Investigators reportedly found that Seward promised returns of 10% to 18% on investments in the movie.
“After the film’s completion, Seward and Soref solicited more funds from investors to produce several films through a company called Windsor Pictures LLC,” the Times adds. “However, money used to form Windsor Pictures was instead used to pay back investors in the production of ‘Not Forgotten.'”
Investigators said the scheme, which operated from 2007-2010, pulled in more than 140 victims, mainly retirees.