Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles have indicted a Redondo Beach man on fraud and identity theft charges, alleging he used the name of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s legendary Desilu production company to scam investors.
Charles Hensley, 68, has been charged with 11 counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft for his alleged activities, which involved using the Desilu name to dupe investors into giving him money to shell corporations. The indictment stemmed from an investigation into Hensley’s businesses from the FBI and the IRS. Prosecutors said Hensley collected $331,000 from multiple investors, money that was used for his personal expenses including trips to Las Vegas.
Hensley could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Hensley founded the company Desilu Studios Inc. in 2016, operating it out of offices in Manhattan Beach and other locations in Southern California. The name closely resembled Desilu Productions Inc., the long-defunct television production company owned by the late Arnaz and Ball and well known for producing TV series such as “I Love Lucy,” “The Untouchables,” “Mission: Impossible” and “Star Trek.” But Hensley had no legitimite ties to the famed couple.
From August 2017 to May 2018, Hensley pitched investors to put money into Desilu Studios and his other company Migranade Inc., according to the indictment. Allegedly, he would lie about his personal financial situation, claim the companies were being backed with his own funds, provided investors with fake valuation letters showing the companies were valued at billions of dollars and falsely said that Desilu was on the verge of going public. In addition, the indictment alleges he stole another person’s identity to list as the sham studio’s chief financial officer in offering materials.
Hensley also allegedly falsely claimed that his companies had acquired valuable intellectual property and was actively developing new film and television projects, in order to dupe investors into providing him money. Hensley allegedly used these same misrepresentations to target several entertainment companies, convincing them to sell their companies in exchange for Desilu Studio stock.
Prior to being investigated, Hensley filed a copyright lawsuit against CBS, which now controls the legacy Desilu Productions shows and has trademark rights to the Desilu moniker. Per Reuters, Hensley asserted in a 2018 lawsuit against CBS that he had been given the blessing of Lucie Arnaz, daughter of Ball and Arnaz, to use the Desilu name. He also stated that CBS had not objected when Hensley first applied for the trademark
If convicted, Hensley will face a mandatory two-year prison sentence for the aggravated identity theft count, and a maximum of 20 years in federal prison for each of the 11 wire fraud counts. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kerry L. Quinn of the Major Frauds Section will lead the prosecution. Hensley will be arraigned on the charges in the “coming weeks,” prosecutors said.