August 17, 2006

Frenchman in New York drops names to scam investors

By Jeanne King

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A man claiming that actor John
Travolta and Richard Branson, the chairman of Virgin Group,
were investors in his film and electronics company, pleaded
guilty on Thursday to scamming nearly $4 million from dozens of

In a plea deal, Alexis Quinlin admitted to one count of
second-degree grand larceny in Manhattan Supreme Court and was
told by the judge he faces up to seven and a half years in
prison when he is sentenced on September 11.

Quinlin, 47, a French citizen living in the United States,
ran the scheme from January 1999 to last April.

As president of Offline Releasing, a small film
distributor, Quinlin told his victims he exported videos, flat
screen televisions and DVDs to Europe and needed the money from
investors to finance these transactions.

He induced his victims to invest by showing them contracts
with other investors, which he claimed included Branson.

Quinlin used most of the money to pay off earlier victims
and further his scheme by silencing complaints from those who
did not receive the promised return on their investment.

When he was arrested, Quinlin had forged contracts bearing
the false signatures of Travolta and actress Jodie Foster,
claiming they were investors "when in fact they were not," said
Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau.

Quinlin's victims included a fashion photographer, a
personal trainer, a model and several lawyers and businessmen,
who gave him individual amounts of up to $600,000.

Quinlin's lawyer, Matthew Myers, said his client would be
deported to France after he completes a prison sentence in the
United States.