“DHS” the TV series is coming soon to a federal court near you.
Producer Joseph M. Medawar was arrested Friday by FBI and IRS agents on charges he bilked investors out of more than $5.5 million for a TV series about the Dept. of Homeland Security that never existed.
Instead, an FBI affidavit charges, Medawar and his associate, Alison Heruth-Waterbury — who was supposed to be an executive producer and star of the series — spent most of the funds on personal expenses.
Those included $40,000 per month rent on a Beverly Hills house, numerous luxury cars, meals at the Peninsula Hotel and Eurochow and tuition for Heruth-Waterbury’s daughter at Pepperdine U.
Medawar produced several films in the 1980s and early ’90s, with his last credit on 1992’s “Sleepwalkers.”
He allegedly told investors that he had permission from the Dept. of Homeland Security to use its logo and even claimed that President Bush personally endorsed the series and provided voiceover.
In fact, the White House and DHS denied working with Medawar.
Nevertheless, Medawar and Heruth-Waterbury repeated the claim in interviews with high-profile media outlets such as the Boston Globe, E! Online and NPR’s “On the Media.”
Steeple Entertainment, Medawar’s company, did set up a flashy Web site for the series (www.dhstheseries.tv). Site includes a trailer that appears to consist largely of clips culled from other films and TV shows, along with a few scenes of Heruth-Waterbury and an actor.
According to the affidavit, Medawar raised over $5.5 million from more than 70 investors, many of whom he met through Christian churches.
Investments went as high as $300,000, with one individual giving $140,000 in life insurance money he received after his wife died.
Medawar and his associates allegedly told the investors that Steeple would go public based largely on the success of “DHS,” and when that happened they would make a huge return on their investment.
In fact, according to the government, Steeple never came close to going public, nor did it finish a single episode of “DHS.”
One person with a company that briefly worked with Medawar said the producer failed to pay invoices and falsely claimed “DHS” would promote Christian values.
Over the more than two years during which Medawar allegedly perpetrated his fraud, he inaccurately told investors the series was close to being sold to networks including Fox and HBO and that deals were done for it to air in 137 countries. At various times, he said “DHS” would be a drama, a reality show and a newsmagazine.
A receptionist at Steeple said nobody from the company was working at the office presently. A message for Steeple executive Jeffrey Rosenberg was not returned.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the investigation is ongoing, which means Heruth-Waterbury, Rosenberg or others associated with Steeple may be arrested.
Medawar is currently being held by authorities pending the completion of a bail hearing.
If he’s convicted, Medawar faces up to 25 years in jail as well as fines to make restitution to investors. Given the extensive spending outlined in the affidavit, however, it seems unlikely he has $5.5 million on hand.