Multi-million Dollar "Birth of Innocence" Fraud Prosecution Announced
Burlington, VT – The Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont stated today that a Federal Grand Jury has returned an 18 count indictment charging Louis James Soteriou, 54, of Middlebury, Connecticut, with wire fraud, mail fraud, conspiracy, and money laundering offenses relating to his role in the "Birth of Innocence" movie project. The United States attorney also filed today a Plea Agreement executed by Malcolm ("Mac") Parker, 54, of Addison, Vermont, pursuant to which Parker agrees to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and a tax crime in connection with this same movie project. Under that agreement Parker agreed to cooperate with the United States in its prosecution of Soteriou.
According to the charging documents, from 2000 to 2009 Soteriou and Parker engaged in a scheme to defraud persons investing in the "Birth of Innocence" movie project. According to court filings, this scheme resulted in more than $28 million dollars being contributed from persons believing they were investing in the production of this movie. The Indictment alleges that only a small fraction (approximately $700,000) of this money actually went toward the production-related expenses of the movie. In contrast, Soteriou received approximately $3.8 million, and the majority of the money raised went to pay back earlier investors in the project.
United States Attorney Tristram Coffin recognized the critical role that the State of Vermont's Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities and Health Care Administration ("BISHCA") played in discovering and bringing this scheme to an end. BISHCA filed suit against Parker in Vermont State Court in late 2009 alleging violations of State securities laws in order to stop this scheme from continuing. Coffin also stated that agents with the United States Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, working together, spearheaded the federal law enforcement investigation.
Soteriou is charged with nine counts of wire fraud, five counts of mail fraud, one count of conspiracy, and three counts of money laundering. Parker has been charged with, and has agreed to plead guilty to, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of filing a fraudulent tax document relating to his failure to disclose to the IRS money he paid to Soteriou.
Both Parker and Soteriou are presumed innocent until and unless they have been convicted either following a trial or pursuant to the entering of a plea in open court. Parker's change of plea hearing has not yet been scheduled.
According to the charging documents, Soteriou proposed the movie project to Parker in or around 1999, and they agreed Parker would be responsible for raising money for the project, while Soteriou would be the "conscience" behind the film and have creative control over it. Court papers also state that Soteriou directed that Parker not disclose Soteriou's role in the movie to potential investors. The charging documents state that both Soteriou and Parker believed that in order for the film to be completed to their satisfaction, Soteriou would have to achieve a level of spiritual consciousness that would allow Soteriou to escape his own body and have access to large amounts of money. The charging documents allege that Parker and Soteriou engaged in a scheme to defraud by having Parker misrepresent to potential investors that their money was being used to produce a film that was Parker's project when, in reality the majority of the money raised was being used to pay back earlier investors and to fund Soteriou's spiritual journey. According to the Indictment, from 2000 through 2009, more than $28 million was raised pursuant to this scheme.
Soteriou was arrested this morning in Connecticut and is expected to make an initial appearance in federal court in Bridgeport. An arraignment in Vermont has been scheduled for March 27, 2012.
Parker is represented by John Pacht, Esq., of Burlington. The prosecutor is Assistant United States Attorney Michael Drescher.
Information for Victims:
If convicted, the law will require that Soteriou and Parker be responsible for paying restitution to the victims of the scheme described in the charging documents. Persons who believe they may be victims of this scheme and who wish to be kept informed of case developments in these matters should contact the United States Attorney's Office Victim-Witness coordinator, Aimee Stearns at Aimee.Stearns@usdoj.gov.