A Manhattan Beach man surrendered Tuesday to face federal charges alleging he collected $14 million from investors who were falsely told their money would be used to produce a feature film that would be distributed by Netflix and involve several notable Hollywood figures.
Adam Joiner, 41, is charged with wire fraud, money laundering and aggravated identity theft, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
According to the affidavit in support of the complaint, Joiner used fake documents and forged signatures to raise millions of dollars from foreign investment firms based in South Korea and China for a project he said would be called “Legends,” described in court papers as “an anachronistic mash-up of legendary and historical figures from 19th century America, such as Davy Crockett, Calamity Jane, Paul Bunyan, and John Henry.”
Joiner, who operated a company called Dark Planet Pictures, allegedly defrauded Korea Investment Global Contents Fund, a South Korean investment fund whose assets are managed by Korean Investment Partners Co. The complaint also accuses Joiner of defrauding a Chinese investment firm called Star Century Pictures Co. and a related company called PGA Yungpark Capital Ltd.
The scheme allegedly began in late 2015 when Joiner met a director of KIP and provided him a script for “Legends,” which Joiner said had been written by his brother.
As KIP considered making an investment in the film, Joiner falsely told company representatives that Netflix had agreed to distribute the picture, a claim he supported with a bogus distribution agreement that appeared to be signed by a Netflix executive, according to the complaint.
After Joiner provided a copy of the purported distribution agreement, KIP agreed to invest $8 million in the project and, in April 2016, transferred the first half of the investment to Dark Planet Pictures, the complaint alleges.
During the investigation, FBI agents spoke to the Netflix executive whose name was attached to the distribution agreement. That executive told the FBI that he had never heard of Joiner, his company or the “Legends” project, nor did he sign the document, according to the affidavit.
Soon after KIP sent the $4 million to Dark Planet Pictures, Joiner entered into an agreement with the Chinese investors that was supported by the same bogus Netflix distribution agreement, according to the complaint affidavit. As a result of the fraudulent misrepresentation, Yungpark wired $6 million to Dark Planet Pictures in June 2016, prosecutors allege.
After receiving the initial $10 million, Joiner provided the investors with updates stating that well known Hollywood figures — such as producer Don Murphy — had agreed to work on the project, according to the affidavit.
While Murphy was retained to produce the film and secure a distribution agreement, no distributor was identified, no talent was secured, and no director committed to the film, the complaint alleges. Murphy terminated his arrangement with Joiner in mid-2017, according to prosecutors.
In late 2016, Joiner allegedly told his investors that he had terminated the distribution agreement with Netflix and had secured a new agreement with Amblin Partners — all of which was bogus, according to executives at both companies. However, the new distribution agreement prompted the South Korean investors to complete their investment by wiring another $4 million to Dark Planet Pictures in early 2017, the complaint alleges.
Following the final wire transfer, Joiner provided a series of excuses to his investors as to why the project was not moving forward, according to the affidavit. He also allegedly provided a forged bank statement to the South Korean investors to prove that he could repay their investment.
The FBI reviewed Dark Planet Pictures’ bank records and determined that more than $5 million of the investors’ money was used to purchase Joiner’s Manhattan Beach home and another $4.3 million was transferred to a bank account that may be linked to another film in development linked to Joiner, federal prosecutors allege.
The charge of wire fraud carries a sentence of up to 20 years in federal and the money laundering offense could lead to a sentence of up to 10 years. The aggravated identity theft charge carries a mandatory two-year prison term, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.