The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Minneapolis office is conducting an active investigation of the principals of Prenda Law, the notorious team of crooked copyright trolls that I’ve …
It takes a lot of skill to turn hugely-profitable films into net losers, and Hollywood studios have it down to an art form — one that’s often more creative than their sanitized retreads and ultra-safe franchises and reboots.
Lucasfilms, now owned by Disney, produced several Star Wars films, amassing billions of dollars. But the actor who played Darth Vader has never received any residuals from The Return of the Jedi, which was the 15th highest-grossing film of all time as of 2012. Low-budget hit The Exorcism of Emily Rose grossed $150 million on a $19 million budget. And yet, its director has yet to see a cent of his residuals, which were supposedly 5% of the net profit. Somehow $131 million just… vanished.
No matter how much is exposed about Hollywood’s complete bullshit it calls an accounting process, it will seemingly never stop screwing over everyone but the studios themselves. It’s apparently far more profitable to simply weather the criticism and occasional lawsuit.
Speaking of the latter, Richard Dreyfuss has just filed a lawsuit against Disney over missing What About Bob? residuals. His co-complainant, Christine Wagner, is the widow of the producer of Turner & Hooch. Both have a problem with the way studios do math. Both tried to bring in a third-party to take a look at Disney’s books, and both were shot down by the studio. (h/t to Techdirt reader techflaws)
If someone hasn’t already sold the movie rights to the story of Eddie Raymond Tipton, expect it to happen soon. Tipton, an Iowa-based former “security director” for the Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL), is accused of trying to pull off the perfect plot to allow himself to win the lottery. It didn’t work, but not for the lack of effort. MUSL runs a bunch of the big name lotteries in the US, including Mega Millions and Powerball. It also runs the somewhat smaller Hot Lotto offering, which was what Tipton apparently targeted. When he was arrested back in January, the claims were that it had to do with him just playing and winning the lottery and then trying to hide the winnings. Lottery employees are (for obvious reasons) not allowed to play. However, late last week, prosecutors in Iowa revealed that it was now accusing Tipton of not just that, but also tampering with the lottery equipment right before supposedly winning $14.3 million. Because of these new revelations, Tipton’s trial has been pushed back until July. However, the details of the plot and how it unraveled feel like they come straight out of a Hollywood plot.
First, there’s the story of how Tipton was discovered winning the lottery in the first place. The ticket was purchased in late December 2010 in a QuickTrip off of Highway 80 in Iowa. The winning $14.3 million went unclaimed for nearly a year, but right before it was set to expire, a New York lawyer named Crawford Shaw showed up with paperwork to claim it. However, Shaw refused to reveal the necessary details about who actually won the money, as Shaw was merely representing Hexham Investments Trust, which was a shell company set up in Belize. Belize, as you already know, is a popular place to setup offshore companies if you want the true ownership to be anonymous. The problem, however, is that Iowa doesn’t allow for anonymous lottery winners. That resulted in Iowa officials investigating who was really behind the winning ticket.
The resulting investigation took them from the NY lawyer Shaw to some (unnamed) guy in Quebec City, Canada, who was listed as Hexham Investments Trust’s trustor and president. That guy eventually pointed investigators to two other guys in the Houston area: Robert Rhodes and an unnamed Houston attorney — who had also known the NY attorney, Shaw, for many years. The attorney in Houston insisted that he represented the winner of the ticket who wished to remain anonymous. Somewhat stumped, investigators released a video and screenshots of the guy at the QuickTrip who bought the ticket:
You’ve all heard of this kind of scam before. Some nefarious person or group gets a hold of someone’s email or computer screen, pretends to be someone in some official capacity, and demands a whatever sum of money they can get away with. Some of the time these scammers pretend to be the IRS, or a utility company, or even law enforcement. What these scams tend to mostly have in common is that they go after private citizens en masse, in the hope to entice whatever percentage of the more gullible amongst us to pay up. What you don’t expect to hear about is one of the largest corporations in the United States essentially falling for the same thing.