‘Twilight’ backer among duo convicted of fraud

World | 27 Dec 2017 2:26 pm

Two tech entrepreneurs, including a man who invested in the film studio that made the "Twilight” movies, were convicted of fraud on Tuesday in New York.

A federal jury convicted Kaleil Isaza Tuzman, 45, and Omar Amanat, 44, of all charges after a six-week trial.

The convictions stemmed from the men’s role in the technology startup Kit Digital.

U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe revoked Amanat’s bail after Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Griswold said he was a flight risk and that he could face over a decade in prison. Gardephe agreed a "substantial” sentence was likely.

The men were convicted of charges they deceived shareholders of Kit Digital from 2010 to 2012 by falsely inflating the company’s revenues.

Gardephe said Amanat deserved immediate incarceration, citing evidence that Amanat had fabricated emails that he introduced at trial, demonstrating a "disregard and a disdain for the courts and legal process.”

Amanat’s attorney, Randall Jackson, urged Gardephe to keep his client on electronic monitoring and home detention, saying there was no actual loss of money in the case and that Amanat, a father of six children, deserved to remain free. In such cases, he argued, it was "extraordinarily rare” to be immediately jailed.

The Harvard University-educated Tuzman, born in Boston, will remain on electronic monitoring until sentencing. He was extradited from Colombia in July 2016. The former Goldman Sachs analyst was chairman and CEO of Kit Digital. He gained a measure of fame when he was featured in the film "Startup.com,” which won the Sundance Film Festival Grand Prize in 2001.

In a release, Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said the men built Kit Digital "on a foundation of lies,” defrauding investors "out of millions of dollars through years of deceit.”

"The evidence of their criminal schemes was so overwhelming that Amanat actually tried to fool the jury by introducing fake emails into the record as exculpatory ‘evidence’ in this trial,” Kim said. "Unfortunately for Tuzman and Amanat, the jury saw through their tangled web of lies, convicting them on all counts.”

Amanat boasts on his website of having helped make over 30 movies, including "The Hurt Locker” and the "Twilight” films through his stake in Summit Entertainment, which produced the films.

During the trial, the jury was not permitted to hear a recorded telephone conversation in which Amanat tells a government cooperator that his first cousin is Huma Abedin, a former aide to last year’s Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton.

Defense lawyers had requested it be kept out of the trial, saying the conversation was "irrelevant and unfairly prejudicial.”

"Again, particularly in New York, jurors are likely to have strong opinions regarding the Clinton campaign and certain individuals connected to the campaign,” the lawyers wrote. "Both supporters and those politically opposed to Secretary Clinton could have reasons to be prejudiced against Mr. Amanat based on his indirect connection to her.” -AP

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