California man stole $14M, told victims money was for Netflix film: prosecutors

A Southern California man faces federal wire fraud, money laundering and aggravated identity theft charges after he defrauded foreign investors out of $14 million for a bogus film that he claimed Netflix would distribute and major Hollywood heavyweights would produce, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Adam Joiner, 41, allegedly forged signatures on fake documents to convince investment firms in South Korea and China to invest in a fake feature film called "Legends," which court documents described as "an anachronistic mash-up of legendary and historical figures from nineteenth century America, such as Davy Crockett, Calamity Jane, Paul Bunyan, and John Henry."

Prosecutors say Joiner, who operated a company called Dark Planet Pictures, LLC, met a director from Korea Investment Global Contents Fund, a South Korean investment fund with assets are managed by Korean Investment Partners Co., Ltd. (KIP), in 2015.

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He gave the director a script for the purported film and KIP pledged $8 million to the project. The first half of the investment was wired to Joiner's company in April 2016 after Joiner gave the director a fake distribution agreement with the forged signature of a Netflix executive on it.

When the FBI approached the unnamed executive, he claimed he had never heard of "Legends" and didn't know who Joiner was.

Joiner used a similar method to scam a Chinese investment firm called Star Century Pictures Co., Ltd. and a related company called PGA Yungpark Capital Ltd., acquiring $6 million from that deal, prosecutors said.

Late in 2016, prosecutors say Joiner told his investors that he had scrapped the distribution agreement with Netflix and secured a new agreement with Amblin Partners. This agreement was also bogus, but prosecutors say it convinced the South Korean investors to wire the remaining $4 million to Dark Planet Pictures in early 2017.

Joiner retained Hollywood producer Don Murphy to produce the film and secure a distribution agreement but no other elements or aspects of production were ever secured, according to the criminal complaint. Prosecutors say Joiner used Murphy's name, along with other famous Hollywood figures, to keep investors interested in the project and provided forged bank statements to the South Korean investors to show that he could repay them.

Murphy pulled out of his arrangement with Joiner in 2017.

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Bank records from Dark Planet Pictures showed that $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, according to the FBI's investigation.

Joiner faces up to 32 years in prison if convicted of all charges