Manhattan Beach Man Faces Federal Charges in Connection With $14 Million Movie Scam

A Manhattan Beach man was arrested Tuesday morning and faces federal charges in connection with a movie scam that cost victims investing into the fake project $14 million, according to federal prosecutors.

Adam Joiner, 41, raised millions from foreign investment firms based in South Korea and China for a feature film called “Legends,” which has been described in court filings as “an anachronistic mash-up of legendary and historical figures from nineteenth century America, such as Davy Crockett, Calamity Jane, Paul Bunyan, and John Henry,” the U.S. Department of Justice said in a news release.

As the owner of a company called Dark Planet Pictures, LLC, Joiner defrauded investors by showing them forged documents and tricking them into believing the film was actually being made and distributed by Netflix, according to federal prosecutors.

In fact, he ultimately used more than $5 million of the investors’ money to buy his home in Manhattan Beach and another $4.3 million was “transferred to a bank account that may be linked to another film in development linked to Joiner,” officials wrote in the news release.

Detailed in a criminal complaint filed on Aug. 13 and unsealed Tuesday morning, the charges against Joiner include wire fraud, money laundering and aggravated identity theft. If convicted of all charges, he could face up to 32 years in prison.

In late 2015, prosecutors said, Joiner met a director of Korea Investment Global Contents Fund, which is an investment fund in South Korea that has its assets managed by Korean Investment Partners Co., Ltd., or KIP. He allegedly provided the executive with a script for “Legends,” saying it was written by his brother.

But Joiner also told KIP representatives that Netflix had agreed to distribute the film and provided a “bogus distribution agreement that appeared to be signed by a Netflix executive,” according to the criminal complaint.

KIP agreed to invest $8 million into the film upon seeing this agreement, which federal prosecutors said later proved fraudulent. In April 2016, KIP transferred the first half of its investment to Dark Planet Pictures.

FBI agents later spoke with the Netflix executive whose signature was apparently on the agreement.

“That executive told the FBI that he had never heard of Joiner, his company or the “Legends” project, nor did he sign the purported distribution agreement,” the DOJ states in a news release, citing an affidavit in the case.

But KIP was not the only company that federal prosecutors say was defrauded by Joiner. He allegedly tricked a Chinese investment firm called Star Century Pictures Co., Ltd. and a related company called PGA Yungpark Capital Ltd. with the same bogus Netflix agreement.

In June 2016, Yungpark sent $6 million to Dark Planet Pictures, prosecutors said.

With $10 million now backing the project, prosecutors said Joiner told the investors that major Hollywood players were on board — including “Transformers” director Don Murphy.

The affidavit states that Murphy did indeed sign onto the project as a producer and agreed to secure a distribution agreement. However, prosecutors said no talent was secured, no director committed to the film and no distributor was identified.

By mid-2017, Murphy terminated his agreement with Joiner, according to prosecutors.

But prior to that, in late 2016, Joiner had told investors that the deal with Netflix was off and a new distribution agreement had been secured with Amblin Partners. But executives at both companies told federal authorities that was all bogus.

Still, the South Korean investors went on to complete their investment by wiring another $4 million to Dark Planet Pictures upon hearing about the new distribution agreement that would turn out to be fraudulent, prosecutors said. The second investment was made in early 2017.

When asked why the movie wasn’t moving forward, Joiner allegedly gave investors several excuses and provided a forged bank statement to show the South Korean investors he could pay back the $8 million they had put forward.

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