Hollywood sign
Photo by John Schreiber.

The former head of a Hollywood production and distribution company pleaded guilty Wednesday to attempting to swindle the coronavirus-relief Paycheck Protection Program out of about $1.7 million.

William Sadleir, 67, pleaded guilty to one count each of bank fraud and money laundering, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Sentencing was set for July 13 in Los Angeles federal court.

Prosecutors said the Beverly Hills resident — the founder and former owner of Los Angeles-based Aviron Pictures — lied on applications seeking forgivable PPP loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

Sadleir’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment.

According to prosecutors, Sadleir obtained three loans by falsely claiming the money would be used to support Aviron payroll expenses, but the money was actually used to pay personal expenses, including payments on his and his wife’s credit cards.

Within days of the loans being funded, Sandleir transferred nearly $1 million to his personal checking account, prosecutors said.

As part of the plea deal, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles will recommend that whatever sentence is imposed should run concurrent with his sentence in a pending case in New York.

Sandleir is scheduled to be sentenced in the New York case on May 10. He pleaded guilty in January to wire fraud for misappropriating more than $25 million that had been invested in Aviron.

Sadleir was the chairman and CEO of Aviron, and oversaw its operations from 2015 until he was ousted four years later, according to court papers.

The 2020 CARES Act was designed to provide emergency financial assistance to businesses impacted by COVID-19 pandemic. The funds must be used by businesses on payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent or utilities.

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