Producer and attorney Peter Hoffman and New Orleans producer Michael Arata are facing federal charges of filing fraudulent documents as a way of obtaining more than $1.1 million in Louisiana production tax credits intended for use in the renovation of an old mansion into a post-production facility.
A six-count indictment was made public on Friday. Federal prosecutors claim that they two submitted “materially false and misleading documents” in expenditures on the mansion to state auditors in 2009 in order to receive the credits, when in fact the expenditures had not been made. Among other things, prosecutors say that they submitted false documents showing spending on film equipment and construction work. They also claim that Hoffman and Arata engaged in “circuitous bank transfers” to make it look as if payments were made. They received the credits in June, 2009.
Hoffman and Arata were charged with one count of conspiracy and five counts of mail fraud. The conspiracy count has a maximum five-year prison term and the mail fraud charges each carry a maximum term of 20 years. They also face a maximum fine of $250,000 for each count. They are scheduled to be arraigned on Feb. 27.
The state’s tax credit is among the most generous in the country, equal to 40% of qualified expenditures on infrastructure, as a way of building a production base.
The two producers applied for the credits through Hoffman’s Seven Arts Entertainment and Arata’s LEAP Film Funds II.
Hoffman’s attorney, Jason Williams, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Arata’s attorney, Billy Gibbens, told the New Orleans Times Picayune, ”Michael Arata has done nothing wrong, and we will respond in court at the appropriate time.”
In 2012, Hoffman told the paper that the mansion was undergoing a $13 million renovation project and that without the credits, “The economics would never have justified the risks we took.”
U.S. Attorney Kenneth Allen Polite said in a statement that “those who brazenly steal from the taxpayers and abuse tax credit programs should know that we will relentlessly pursue and hold them criminally accountable wherever possible.”