NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal appeals court Tuesday refused to reconsider an August ruling that could mean prison time for a movie producer and an attorney convicted of fraud involving Louisiana’s “Hollywood South” film tax credit program.
Producer Peter Hoffman and attorney Michael Arata were sentenced to probation in 2016 by a federal judge who threw out some of their 2015 jury convictions in a case involving a million-dollar-plus building renovation.
But a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated many of the convictions Aug. 9. They sent the case back to the district judge for re-sentencing.
On Wednesday, a request for a re-hearing at the appeals court was denied.
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The two men were convicted in a scheme involving fraudulent documents to get more than $1 million in tax credits for turning a dilapidated French Quarter mansion into a film production facility.
Although the jury agreed there was fraud, the facility was completed and opened. And some of the facility’s tax credits were deemed legitimate.
The 5th Circuit panel’s August opinion acknowledged that Arata and Hoffman’s venture may have been entitled to credits close to or equal to those ultimately issued by the state. But, the panel also said the jury’s findings of fraud and, in Arata’s case, false statements, were reasonable and that U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman, in most cases, had erred in throwing them out.
Hoffman now stands convicted of 21 criminal counts — one of conspiracy, 20 of fraud. He had been facing only 16 criminal convictions.
Arata stands convicted of one conspiracy, seven fraud and three false statement counts, according to a recap in the opinion. Until the August ruling, he only stood convicted of two counts. A re-sentencing date has not been set. Defense attorneys didn’t immediately respond to emailed requests for comment Wednesday afternoon.
Susan Hoffman, Peter Hoffman’s wife at the time of the scheme, remains convicted of one conspiracy and two fraud counts. The appeals court upheld her probation in the case.