The CEO of a reality TV production company has agreed to plead guilty to defrauding a lender out of $2 million, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Jonathan Lee Smith, CEO of Hoplite Entertainment, is expected to face a sentence of 33 to 41 months in prison. According to the criminal complaint, Smith used fraudulent license agreements to induce the lender to provide the loan.
The lender, Bay Point Capital Partners, previously filed a federal lawsuit containing identical allegations against Hoplite.
According to the suit, filed in Atlanta in January, Smith claimed that he was expecting to receive $3.4 million from licensing deals with three media outlets: Screen Media/Crackle/Sony, Fight Channel and Big Media/National Geographic. He said he needed a $2 million bridge loan as he awaited payment, and offered his accounts receivable as collateral against the loan.
The suit alleges that Smith immediately defaulted on the loan, missing the first payment in October 2020.
Smith later forwarded Bay Point an email, purporting to show that Screen Media Ventures had made good on an obligation to pay Hoplite $1.5 million. That money could then be used to make payments to Bay Point, but the money never materialized. Bay Point then directly contacted a Screen Media executive, who informed them that, “Unfortunately, it appears this is a scam, as I did not ever send any such email.”
Screen Media also provided Bay Point a copy of its license agreement with Hoplite. The agreement differed from the one that Hoplite had provided in order to obtain the loan, indicating that Hoplite had fabricated the $1.5 million obligation. The suit also alleged that the signatures of Screen Media Ventures’ executives had been forged.
Smith also sent another fake record, indicating that he had wired $100,000 to Bay Point, according to prosecutors. That money also did not come through.
Bay Point agreed to two separate forbearance agreements with Smith, but said that Smith again failed to make agreed payments, according to the suit.
Hoplite filed for bankruptcy in California in March. Smith is due in federal court on July 6.
Hoplite claims a number of reality shows to its credit, including “Atlantic Jellymen,” “Beach Slap,” “Stable Wars,” “Foxy Ladies,” “Charged and Disbarred,” “Wrecking Plan” and “Ink Therapy.”