Silent partner in Mac Parker film case pleads guilty to fraud, money laundering charges

Source: www.burlingtonfreepress.com

RUTLAND — Malcolm “Mac” Parker and Louis J. Soteriou, partners in the doomed “Birth of Innocence” movie project, were together again on Thursday, but not in a way either one might have imagined.

Soteriou, 55, of Middlebury, Conn., appeared at U.S. District Court in Rutland on Thursday morning and pleaded guilty to two felony charges connected with an alleged fraud scheme involving hundreds of people — mostly Vermonters — who invested $28 million in the still unfinished film.

As Soteriou entered his pleas, Parker sat several feet away and watched, accompanied by his two brothers, Alan Parker and Scudder Parker Jr., the 2006 Democratic gubernatorial candidate.

Soteriou and Mac Parker, who once regarded Soteriou as his spiritual mentor, had a falling out in late 2009 when Soteriou was unable to deliver on promises to repay investors money they were owed.

They had not seen each other since — until Thursday.

Neither man spoke to the other at the hearing and appeared to avoid looking at each other face-to-face. When the hearing ended, Parker and his brothers promptly departed the courtroom.

Parker declined comment as he walked out of the room. Soteriou separately also declined comment as he left the courthouse later in the day.

Prior to the start of his hearing, Soteriou spoke informally with a reporter about his ties to the Ramtha School of Enlightenment and what he said was his ongoing quest to transport himself through time and space.

Asked if he had anything to say about the legal case, Soteriou shook his head and said he’d been advised by his lawyer, Steven Barth, against doing so.

“It’s frustrating, frustrating,” he whispered.

Under terms of Soteriou’s plea deal, he entered guilty pleas to charges of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, plus money laundering. In return, federal prosecutors agreed to drop 16 other counts pending against him.

Thursday’s plea deal means there will be no trials connected to the case that state officials say was perhaps the largest fraud scheme in Vermont history. Soteriou’s case had been slated to go to trial later this month.

Last year, Mac Parker accepted a plea deal from federal prosecutors that resulted in guilty pleas on conspiracy to commit wire fraud and filing false tax documents counts. As part of his plea deal, he agreed to help with the government’s investigation of Soteriou.

According to court documents and recent interviews with Mac Parker, Soteriou came up with the idea of making the movie while the two were attending a retreat at the Ramtha school in 1999.

At Soteriou’s direction, Mac Parker agreed to raise money for the film, oversee its production, but not tell any of the investors about Soteriou’s role in the project. Soteriou was responsible for shaping the spiritual message of the movie, meant to exhort people to embrace their inner, innocent selves.

As part of their understanding, Mac Parker also agreed to provide Soteriou money — $4.3 million over 10 years — to fund Soteriou’s purported mission to transcend his earthly body and as Soteriou said to an FBI agent, “activate your gene code to become immortal.”

Court documents show that Mac Parker, a well-known Vermont story teller, raised $28 million between 1999 and 2009 by promising to pay investors double-digit interest rates on their money.