Grayson Stroud, an independent film producer and director, pleaded guilty on Monday to defrauding lenders out of $550,000.
Stroud — who was charged under his legal name, Troy Rustill Stroud — admitted that he moved money between various shell companies in order to dupe lenders into believing that he was engaged in legitimate business.
Stroud produced or directed several films between 2013 and 2019, including “The Power of Love” starring Vivica Fox, “Patterns of Attraction” and “A Holiday Change.” The films were produced through his company, Stroud Entertainment.
The financial crimes were not related to his film production work.
Under the plea agreement, Stroud acknowledged that he used the loan proceeds to pay for personal expenses, and paid others to pretend to be officers of his dummy corporations. Investigators believe the lenders lost as much as $1 million.
The FBI began its investigation after receiving a complaint from a lender who had sued for breach of a loan agreement. Investigators tracked Stroud to the Park La Brea apartment complex in Los Angeles in November 2019, and attempted to conduct a search, but found that he had recently moved out.
Following the attempted search, Stroud allegedly went into hiding, disabling his phone so he could not be tracked and avoiding using his BMW, according to court records.
The investigators were able to get access to the girlfriend’s work computer, and found that she had searched such terms as “black lady loan fraud,” “how do I find out if I have a warrant,” “Troy Stroud FBI” and “federal sentencing guidelines.” He and his girlfriend also had extensive discussions on WhatsApp about how to cover his tracks, according to court records.
The FBI alleged that he continued to engage in loan fraud even after being alerted that the FBI was looking for him. “If there search game is as sorry as it seems then I should be able to do those 4 loans easy,” he wrote in one message, according to a court filing.
Investigators eventually tracked him down at his girlfriend’s address in Gardena, Calif. When the investigators arrested Stroud in May, he asked, “How did you find me?” according to court records.
According to the complaint, Stroud applied for business loans from at least 22 financial institutions, under the names of 14 companies. According to the complaint, the lenders called to verify the loan information and spoke with at least five different company officers who seemed to have the same voice.
Stroud also has an extensive criminal history, and was once featured on “American Greed” for his part in a counterfeit currency scheme. According to the complaint in that case, Stroud admitted to being a broker of large quantities of forged $20 and $100 bills. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison in 2009. He also was also convicted of conspiracy to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana. He was released from federal prison in November 2012.
The investigators concluded that Stroud had been defrauding lenders from 2015 through May 2020.
He also has convictions from the late 1980s and early 1990s for assault with a deadly weapon, battery, transporting cocaine, racketeering and use of a firearm.
Stroud is currently housed at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles and is due to be sentenced on Feb. 22. His public defender did not return a call seeking comment.