NEW ORLEANS — The head of a defunct movie studio pleaded guilty yesterday to federal charges of selling $1.9 million in nonexistent tax credits to members of the New Orleans Saints.
Wayne Read, 45, who once ran Louisiana Film Studios, LLC, in suburban New Orleans, pleaded guilty to interstate transportation of stolen funds and wire fraud.
Read peddled state film industry tax credits to investors, including Saints head coach Sean Payton, quarterback Drew Brees and former Saints star Archie Manning, authorities said. But state officials said the credits were never applied for.
A victims list presented in court listed 27 current and former players and coaches, and administrative personnel as credit buyers. Former defensive end Charles Grant gave Read the most money: $425,000. Payton paid $144,000, Brees invested $100,000 and Manning paid $80,000.
Former long snapper Kevin Houser, who is in the securities business and the target of lawsuits blaming him for the sour deal, bought $125,000 in credits, the document showed. Houser was cut from the team last summer as details of the scheme surfaced, although Payton said the case had nothing to do with his ouster.
Houser played last season for the Seattle Seahawks and is currently an unrestricted free agent.
Prosecutors claimed Read used the money to pay personal debts and avoided the sale of his home in Wonder Lake, Ill. The Associated Press reported last year that Read avoided losing his home by paying $452,000 to settle a dispute over another failed Louisiana movie studio project.
Read is the only person to face criminal charges. Prosecutors declined to say whether additional charges would be filed, although the government agreed in a plea bargain not to bring more charges against Read or to charge his wife and son. The agreement also requires Read to cooperate with authorities.
Louisiana Film Studio, which was used to make at least part of two movies, is in federal bankruptcy liquidation. The Saints organization has refused to comment on the case.
Read faces up to 30 years in prison, fines of $500,000 or twice the amount of his ill-gotten gain or the investors’ losses. He also could be subject to asset forfeiture.
U.S. District Judge Martin L.C. Feldman set Aug. 11 for sentencing. Read was allowed to remain free on bond.