A Hollywood producer who ran various television production and distribution companies was sentenced Wednesday to 5 1/2 years in federal prison for stock fraud and bilking an investor.
Drew Savitch Levin, 59, of Pacific Palisades was also ordered by U.S. District Judge Dean D. Pregerson to pay more than $2 million in restitution to 13 victims in the United States, France, Austria, England and Switzerland, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
At the sentencing hearing, Judge Pregerson said Levin used his "charm and sizable intellect to lie to people and take their money."
"And maybe in his mind he felt that it would all come out fine in the end, but it was a scorched earth strategy, and that’s clear," Pregerson described from victim statements, per a Department of Justice press release. "And when you read the letters about the promises that were made once notes were due...those are lies, clearly. And you see that time and time again."
Levin pleaded guilty in September 2011 to conspiring to inflate the revenue and stock price of Team Communications Group, a West Los Angeles-based company he founded and for which he served as CEO until he was forced out in 2001.
In a second case involving wire fraud, Levin admitted he conned a French investor out of 80,000 Euros. The victim had put money into a Levin-run company in 2008.
Levin was initially charged in the Team Communications case in March 2008. He was free on bond until September 2010, when he was arrested for violating the terms of his release by committing the new fraud against the French investor.
Levin was re-released on bond in November 2010, but jailed again in March 2011 for violating the conditions of his bond.
"Levin is a dangerous economic menace who cannot be trusted," prosecutors said in court documents. "For more than a decade, he has struck time and again -- against victims for their money, against the laws of society, and against the orders of this court."
According to court documents, Team, whose shares were traded on the NASDAQ stock exchange, was in the business of producing and distributing television programming, including made-for-television movies.
As part of its distribution business, Team licensed its programming to other companies for distribution fees. Levin perpetrated a scheme to falsely overstate Team’s revenues to make the company appear to be profitable, when in fact it was operating at a substantial loss. For example, when Team licensed television programming for inflated distribution fees and the customers were unable to pay the fees, Levin had Team send them millions of dollars of Team’s own money, which the customers then used to make payments to Team. These "circular payments" were disguised by routing them through third parties and by ostensibly using them to buy television programming.
Levin personally profited from the revenue-inflation scheme in several ways, including by taking a $335,000 bonus based on Team’s reportedly profitable 1999 performance, and by pledging more than 500,000 shares of Team as collateral for a loan to buy a $1.5 million luxury vacation home in Big Sky, Montana.
According to a biography posted on the Internet Movie Database, Levin's credits include "Future Quest," "Cosmos: A Special Edition," "Shadow Theater," "The World's Most Mysterious Places" and other small screen productions.