July 23, 2021

Delaney Sexton
Contributing Editor

Fraud Friday – Former Wells Fargo Banker is Sentenced 42 Months for $60 Million Movie Financing & COVID-19 Loan Fraud

Benjamin Rafael was sentenced last week for helping take millions of dollars from investors and producers looking for financing for movies and Broadway shows. Following his indictment and guilty plea, he submitted multiple applications for PPP and EIDL loans to various banks and concealed his criminal record.

On October 30, 2019, Benjamin pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for his role in a sophisticated movie financing scheme. His partners Benjamin McConley and Jason Van Eman offered to provide financing to help produce motion pictures, theater performances, and other projects. The victims were promised that their cash contributions would be matched by McConley and Van Eman, and the duo would then secure financing from other financial institutions. Victims’ financial contributions were never matched and instead were transferred into the duos’ personal and corporate bank accounts.

Rafael’s role in the scheme was to assure the victims that their funds were secure. He helped create false and fraudulent bank documents such as purported bank letters, forged “proof-of-funds” letters, account signature cards, and deposit account balance summaries for the victims.

Throughout their scheme, the three men purchased luxury cars, personal watercraft, real estate, jewelry, home furnishings, designer clothes, hotel accommodations, and private and commercial air travel with the stolen money.

After his indictment and guilty plea in 2019, Rafael submitted PPP and EIDL applications to several banks and never disclosed his criminal activity in the applications. Benjamin was charged with making a false statement to a financial institution.

In a consolidated proceeding, he was sentenced for both fraud schemes in early July 2021. Along with his 42 months’ imprisonment, he must pay restitution to the victims, forfeit money and real estate that are traced to the fraud schemes, and serve a five-year term of supervised release following his prison time.

Sources:

August 2019 DOJ News Release

October 2019 DOJ News Release

July 2021 DOJ News Release