Joel Lee Craft Jr., Film Investment Scam's Lead Generator, Gets 5 Years for Guilty Plea
A San Clemente man was sentenced Friday to five years in federal prison and ordered to pay $22 million for his role in a telemarketing scheme to milk investors of independent films such as From Mexico With Love and Red Water: 2012.
Joel Lee Craft Jr. had pleaded guilty in 2012 to two counts of conspiracy and single counts of mail fraud, wire fraud and tax evasion. The 43-year-old was the CEO of San Clemente-based American Information Strategies Inc., which sold lead lists to the telemarketing companies that made the cold calls to potential film investors around the U.S.
Some films were made, but the fraud was similar to the one at the center of Mel Brooks' The Producers: Millions and millions of dollars were raised from investors for future flops that were made and promoted with small portions of the money raised.
For instance, only about a third of the $15 million raised went into From Mexico With Love, which only made about $550,000 after its October 2009 theatrical release, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
About 100 people invested $2.7 million into the making of Red Water: 2012, which was never produced, say prosecutors, while $9 million was raised from about 250 investors for Eye of the Dolphin and sequel Way of the Dolphin (later renamed Beneath the Blue). Eye of the Dolphin reaped about $70,000 from its theatrical release, and the sequel went straight to video.
Think of The Producers and Glengarry Glen Ross when it comes to co-defendant James Lloyd, 47, of Lake Arrowhead. The "closer" in the scheme received a 13-year federal prison sentence in 2012. Guess coffee's not the only thing for closers.