NEW YORK (AP) — A Broadway producer has been charged with scamming seven people by getting them to invest $165,000 in a nonexistent play about opera star Kathleen Battle supposedly starring Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o.
Roland Scahill pleaded not guilty on Friday to charges of criminal possession of stolen property, grand larceny and scheming to defraud. His attorney, James DeVita, said he “stands on that not guilty plea.”
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said Scahill “put on an elaborate performance” to steal from the victims between October 2014 and January 2015.
Prosecutors said Scahill falsely claimed he had secured the rights to Battle’s life story and had signed a contract with Nyong’o to star in the play, called “The KB Project.”
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Scahill also claimed that the Booth Theatre had been reserved for the play’s Broadway run and that Netflix had agreed to film a performance, according to an indictment.
Scahill owns a production company called RMS2 Productions. Prosecutors said the investors in the phony play included some of his closest friends.
Battle is a celebrated diva who was fired from New York’s Metropolitan Opera. She is scheduled to perform a concert at the Met on Nov. 13, her first appearance there since what she called an “unexpected dismissal” in 1994.
Nyong’o won an Academy Award for her role in the 2013 film “12 Years a Slave.” She made her Broadway debut in 2016 in “Eclipsed,” a drama about women caught up in the Liberian civil war.
According to court papers, Scahill continued to insist that Nyong’o was going to star in his play even after her Broadway appearance in “Eclipsed” had been announced.
Several investors demanded their money back, prosecutors said, and Scahill sent them checks that bounced.
Scahill’s next court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 20.