Frank Report reported on James David Williams, who met the Vanguard at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) – and then proceeded to bilk $500,000 from his supporters for a film about NXIVM. The film was never made.
Williams’ troubles began back in 2016 when the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York brought charges against him and two of his associates, Steven Brown and Gerald Seppala.
Prosecutors called it an “advance fee scheme” and the main victim, Billy A. Busbice, Jr., lost $11 million.
Busbice was host of Wildgame Nation on the Outdoor Channel and owns a hunting equipment company, Wildgame Innovations, and 55,000 acres of hunting ground in Louisiana.
Back in 2012, Williams told Busbice he was working on the production of feature-length movies and documentaries. Among them were “The Letters” about Mother Theresa.
Other purported projects included “Angels Sing,” a Christmas-themed feature film starring Harry Connick Jr. and Willie Nelson and “Left Behind,” a reboot of the religious science fiction series, with Nicolas Cage.
Williams informed Busbice he had millions in the projects, but that more money was needed to bring them to fruition. To prove he had money in the deal, Williams provided bogus bank statements, showing millions in bank accounts, when, in reality, there was nothing in them.
Williams would create documents and said the investments were guaranteed by Woodlawn Holdings and named the managing partner, a man who did not exist.
In 2013, Busbice invested $500,000 in “Made in America,” $6 million in “Letters,” $2.4 million in “Left Behind” and $2 million in “Angels Sing” – about $11 million total. Other investors put in millions more – and why not? – there was a guaranteed return on the money [from a guy who didn’t existl] and these three – Williams, Brown and Seppala –had millions of their own money in the deal [but that money existed only on fake bank statements.].
Now, with real millions from Busbice in their bank accounts, Williams, and to a lesser degree, Brown and Seppala, were off to the movies.
Before he could start investing in these movies, Williams had a few things to take care of first.
He bought an $87,825 Jaguar, made a down payment on a $3.5 million home in Calabasas, made payments on a yacht, went over to Louis Vitton and dropped $4,000, and $5,000 at Neiman Marcus, paid club memberships, made ATM and debit card withdrawals of $214,000, and another $89,394 withdrawal to pay down loans on his residence and boat; $37,658 in payments for his child’s private school tuition; a $22,354 payment for a time-share property, and tens of thousands of dollars on family vacations, hotels, restaurants and car rentals with a preference for Hawaii.
By the time Williams [and partners] took care of vital expenses, they had nothing left to invest.
In 2014, Busbice sued Williams and partners won an $8 million judgment. Because all the money had been spent on essential luxuries, Williams and partners could not pay a dime of the judgment.
In 2016, the FBI arrested the three men, Williams in Los Angeles, Brown in NYC, and Seppala in Wayzata, Minnesota. They were charged with wire fraud and wire fraud conspiracy. Williams and Brown were charged with also charged with laundering the proceeds of this fraud.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Bharara said: “With lies about making feature-length films and documentaries, the defendants allegedly defrauded victims into investing over $12 million with them. Rather than making movies, the defendants perpetrated an advance fee scheme, allegedly using the investors’ money to pay themselves and pay other investors back.”
Facing prison, Williams, the leader of the conmen, told the feds he wanted to reform, come clean, confess his sins, and never sin again as long as he lived. He made a deal to inform on his partners, which, to hear Williams tell it, were far guiltier than he.
In September 2017, Williams pleaded guilty to wire fraud, wire fraud conspiracy, aggravated identity theft and money laundering conspiracy.
Freed on bail while awaiting sentencing, Williams expected to be treated leniently for making a slam dunk case against his former partners. Unhappily for Williams, the feds discovered he had not been forthcoming about his role in defrauding investors.
Williams apologized profusely. He said he learned his lesson. He asked the feds to let him continue to cooperate and nail his cheating partners who virtually forced him into defrauding Busbice and others.
The feds agreed to let him cooperate, but Judge Kimba Wood was less considerate. In April 2018, she ordered Williams locked up at MDC until he was sentenced.
As luck would have it, there was a new prisoner arriving at MDC shortly after Williams took up residence there: Keith Alan Raniere. Raniere was awaiting trial on charges of sex trafficking, forced labor conspiracy and racketeering charges that included underlying acts of possessing child pornography, extortion and identity theft.
The two men were able to enjoy each other’s company at MDC from April to mid-December 2018 – which was when Williams went before Judge Wood for sentencing.
Because he cooperated with the prosecution, because he repented, and because he told a story of how he was largely innocent even though he devised the plans and got most of the money, Williams was sentenced to time served – and probation. He was also ordered to make restitution to Busbice and the other duped investors. He walked out of prison that day.
Meantime, one of his partners he informed on, Steve Brown, was sentenced to more than five years in prison and is still in prison.
Out on probation, a changed and repentant Williams was doing well. He told his probation officer he landed a job. It did not pay much, a mere thousand per week, but it was doing something he loved. He was working for Universal Yacht Management and had a great boss, Henry Marker, who was V.P. of Operations.
Williams provided emails from Marker, as well as an address and telephone number for Universal Yacht Management in Miami.
Sure, he was struggling to make ends meet, but Mr. Marker liked his work and there was a future for him, after all. Williams was part of the Universal team.
Meantime, without bothering to tell his probation officer, he persuaded NXIVM followers to hand him $500,000 for a sure-fire hit documentary he would make about them and the injustice of putting a good man like Raniere in prison.
With $500,000 in hand, while pretending to his probation officer that he was working for Universal Yacht Management for $1000 per week, Williams was ready to make a NXIVM movie, but first, he had to take care of a few personal expenses. He spent $168,000 on his boat and marina expenses, used $52,000 to have some pocket cash in hand, spent $50,000 to pay credit card charges and car payments, $18,000 for a luxury apartment in Tempe, Arizona for his children, $11,500 in payments on a second car, and thousands at Costco, airline tickets, hotels, tuition to his child’s private high school and other vital necessities.
He also paid $11,900 back to Busbice and other investors – out of the $15 million he owed.
Then one day Williams decided to visit Hawaii. Williams told his probation officer that it was part of his job at Universal Yacht Management.
This made the feds suspicious. After all, Hawaii was his favorite luxury vacation spot. They looked at the documents Williams produced to probation. Prosecutors soon learned Williams concocted the job, invented the company, and created his supervisor, the elusive Mr. Marker.
This time Judge Wood said, “After I was lenient with you when I first sentenced you, you purposely violated important conditions of supervised release just four months after I sentenced you.”
Then last week, she sentenced him to 18 months in prison for violating probation. Moments after, US Marshalls approached Williams, slapped handcuffs on him, and led him out of the courtroom. It is unclear what prison he was assigned to or what film projects he will be working on next.