A self-described film financier was sentenced today to 156 months in jail for orchestrating a plan to steal more than $60 million from Ipass lending investors and producers seeking financing for feature films and Broadway plays, according to court documents.
In a previous interview, Benjamin Forrest McConkey, 39, of Miami, acknowledged his involvement in the operation of a complex movie finance fraud scam. He pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
McConkey presented himself as a film producer and financier, which he was not. The company McConley founded in that capacity provided financial support for filmmakers and producers who were looking for funding to produce films, stage shows, and other ventures. To compensate the victims for their monetary donations, McConkey offered to “match” the sums received and utilize the combined monies to acquire finance from financial institutions in South Florida and other locations.
Benjamin Rafael, a bank employee, recruited by McConkey, contributed to the scheme’s success by fooling victims about the security of their cash. As part of the plan, Rafael was instructed to falsely inform victims that their donations or loans had been “matched” by the financing agreements, which was not the case.
Victims have lost millions of dollars due to these deceptive assertions and assurances. Despite promises made in the funding agreements, the victims’ contributions were never “matched” by the victims’ monies as promised. McConkey transferred the cash to personal and business bank accounts, who often did so within days of the victims’ contributions or loans being received. In addition to luxury automobiles and personal watercraft, he also spent the money from the victims’ funds on real estate and stocks, jewelry, home furnishings, designer clothing, hotel accommodations, and private and commercial air travel.
The defendant was also ordered to pay compensation to the victims and forfeit any money or real estate that might be traced to the fraud scheme. He was also sentenced to serve three years of supervised release after serving his sentence of 156 months. The Court also entered a forfeiture money judgment against McConley in $69,000,000.00.
Co-defendant Rafael previously pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a total of 42 months in prison for his participation in the scheme and his role in a separate case involving Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) loans that he got through deception. According to court documents, co-defendant Jason Van Eman will stand trial on March 14, 2022. An accusation against Van Eman is contained in an indictment, and Van Eman is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The statement was made by Juan Antonio Gonzalez, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Special Agent in Charge George L. Piro of the FBI’s Miami Field Office, respectively.
The FBI Miami Field Office is located in Miami. Assistant United States Attorneys Christopher Browne and Elizabeth Young are in charge of the case’s prosecution. Marx Calderon, an Assistant United States Attorney, is in order of the asset forfeiture portion of the investigation.