A judge Monday ordered two movie producers to turn over personal assets, starting with the $50 they had in their pockets, as a start toward paying $18.5 million in fines and restitution for a fraudulent investment scheme.
Jeffrey Shuken and Richard Houghton invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination repeatedly during the court-administered debtor exam Monday, presided over by Superior Court Commissioner Murray Gross. The $50 collected in the courtroom is the only money that has been recovered from defendants in the case.
The pair, along with Kirk Friedman and Sean Andrew O’Neal, were the subject of a state Dept. of Corporations investigation in August 2002. The investigation revealed that between November 2000 and May 2001, the four moviemakers sought investors nationwide to produce two films, promising that high-profile actors including Ben Kingsley would be involved and telling investors they could make up to 400% on their money. Neither Kingsley nor the other actors were ever connected with the projects. About 200 investors lost a total of $8 million in the scheme. No films were produced.
The filmmakers agreed to a permanent injunction in September 2002 to halt illegal movie production activities and to pay $18.5 million in penalties and restitution. The Monday hearing was to determine why the $18.5 million has not been paid.