PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A R.I. Superior Court jury has found an East Greenwich man guilty of defrauding a British investor of $100,000 under the false pretenses he would make a film based on the HBO series “Tales from the Crypt.”
John Santilli, 49, was found guilty last week of one count of obtaining money under false pretenses over $10,000, according to R.I. Attorney General Peter Neronha’s office.
Following a two-day trial, the jury agreed with the prosecution that Santilli solicited funds from the British investor in 2018 and subsequently spent much of the money at various casinos.
“This case is a compelling example of something that Rhode Islanders deal with every day,” Neronha said in a statement. “Whether it’s swindling hundreds of thousands of dollars from an overseas investor, or a simple email solicitation to an unsuspecting victim, scammers are always finding new, increasingly sophisticated ways to steal from hard-working folks.”
Santilli’s attorney was not immediately available for comment midday Wednesday.
According to prosecutors, the R.I. State Police launched an investigation into the matter in 2020 after the victim allged he entered into a contract with Santilli and his company, Aloris Entertainment LLC, under the understanding that Santilli would remake “Tales from the Crypt” for $350,000. The HBO horror anthology based on a 1950s comic series ran for seven seasons from 1989 to 1996.
Investigators found Santilli, a Providence-born producer and production manager, stopped reporting progress of the film to the investor. The victim reached out to friends in the industry “and eventually discovered the project was fraudulent,” according to a news release.
Police said they examined Santilli’s banking records and found that after he received the investor’s money, he withdrew the money from Twin River Casino, Foxwoods Casino, and Mohegan Sun Casino on several occasions. Santilli was arrested in June 2020, according to court records.
“I commend the investigative efforts of our troopers and the attorney general’s office for holding this defendant accountable,” State Police Col. Darnell Weaver said in a statement. “The Rhode Island State Police and its Financial Crimes Unit is committed to protecting the people of Rhode Island and elsewhere from this type of criminal behavior.”
This isn’t the first time Santilli has swindled investors.
A year ago, Santilli admitted to defrauding investors of more than $4.2 million for a “Magic Mike Live” stage show in Las Vegas, according to federal prosecutors in California. Santilli pleaded guilty to one count of securities fraud and one count of wire fraud, according to the U.S Department of Justice.
As part of that scheme, Santilli used the same entertainment company to raise funds and then withdrew more than $1 million to gamble at casinos across the country, according to the DOJ. He has not been sentenced yet in that case, according to court records.
In Rhode Island, Santilli is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 8
“I’m grateful that justice was served in this case, and hope it serves as a reminder to Rhode Islanders to stay vigilant,” Neronha said. “And as always, I want to thank the Rhode Island State Police for their partnership in investigating this case and bringing the defendant to justice.”