Special Counsel Robert Mueller may already be looking into Hollywood connections to the Russia investigation.
A McClatchy report posted today details the links between Rick Gates, the indicted former aide to then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, and three Hollywood producers who have been charged with fraud, identity theft, and money laundering in connection with investments in movie projects involving such stars as Nicolas Cage, Harry Connick, Jr. and Willie Nelson.
One of the producers, James David Williams, pleaded guilty September 21 in U. S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, three counts of wire fraud, and single counts of identity theft and money laundering. Court documents indicate Williams has agreed to be a “cooperating witness” in the case against his fellow co-defendants, but it is an arrangement that has often been used if the witness has evidence that could be of value in other government cases.
Williams was an executive producer and Gates a co-executive producer in this year’s box office clunker Walk of Fame, starring Clint Eastwood’s son Scott Eastwood, Malcolm McDowell and former Saturday Night Live actor Chris Kattan.
Gates was one of 16 producers or co-executive producers on Walk of Fame. Often producer titles are given to those who invest large amounts in movies. The McClatchy article also noted that movie projects have often been used for money laundering since many of them lose millions. No such allegations have been made about Walk of Fame.
Another of the co-producers on Walk of Fame was Steven J. Brown, who still faces federal fraud and money laundering charges and who has an earlier connection to Gates and Manafort.
Brown worked for Manafort providing political and media outreach for the Ukrainian Party of Regions in 2012 and 2013.
The indictments against Manafort and Gates that were unsealed last week charge them with conspiracy against the United States, money laundering and making false statements in connection with their work in the Ukraine.
According to court records, Brown, Williams, and Minnesota Republican fundraiser Jerry Seppala are accused of taking investors’ money for three of their film projects and diverting at least $10.9 million for their own use.
Among the investors who were bilked was Bill Busbice, Jr., former host of the reality television show Wildgame Nation.
Among the projects listed in the court documents was the 2014 Nicolas Cage production Left Behind, another movie that failed at the box office, and the 2013 movie Angels Sing, starring Harry Connick Jr., Connie Britton, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson.
[Featured Image by Evan Vucci/AP Images]