Sunday, June 03, 2012
It's amazing how materialism can suck down higher intentions.
During a nine-year stretch Vermont filmmaker Mac Parker said he was raising money to create a spiritual documentary. Prosecutors countered that he was engaged in a $28 million Ponzi scheme.
So far no movie but there's a book by Parker, a work of fiction dealing with the theme of trust. Back in March Parker accepted a plea deal, saying he was guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and tax fraud. Prosecutors said that only $700,000 of the millions raised for the proposed movie, "The Birth of Innocence," went towards the film project. As with a typical Ponzi scheme, prosecutors contend some of the money was used to pay back earlier investors.
Parker's partner and mentor, chiropractor Louis Soteriou of Connecticut, was also indicted but pled not guilty to the charges. As part of the plea deal, Parker will help prosecutors with their case against Soteriou. Authorities say that around $3.8 million of the money raised was diverted to Soteriou for his plan of spiritual attainment. Soteriou claimed he has no money and was allowed to use a federal public defender.
Parker told prosecutors he was led along by his mentor Soteriou. To make up some of the money owed to investors Parker has written a book, "Rare Earth," being sold at $12 a shot at his website. He assures the public that 55% of money raised through his book will go into an escrow account for those lenders still left in a lurch.
I haven't read the book -- I wasn't one of the lucky ones sent a free PDF copy -- but a few details about the fictional work were revealed in an article in the Vermont alternative weekly newspaper, Seven Days.
In her article "You Can't See Mac Parker's Film, But You Can Read His Book" (05/02/12), reporter Margot Harrison explains "Rare Earth" centers around a Texas company that wants to exploit a mountain for its rare earth minerals, the conflict between defenders of nature -- spiritual new age types -- and materialistic greedy businessmen. Through the love of her boyfriend the woman protagonist overcomes her mistrust to embrace a new perspective on life.
So while things turn out well in the novel, the woman's trust is rewarded, in real life Parker has claimed in court that he was led astray while under the spell of his guru Soteriou.
Parker sent out a few free copies of "Rare Earth" and it appears that it might take him a while for his book to put a dent in the debt he owes. One person described it in the Seven Days article as "“insipid, trite, predictable and saccharinely sentimental." Then again, that reviewer is one of the people Parker owes money.
When questions were raised about the funding and long delay with Parker's documentary, some rushed to his defense, demonstrating blind faith. One true believer questioned why prosecutors were after such a good man as Parker.
Parker says his trust in Soteriou was misguided but he is trying to prevent himself from becoming a hard, cynical person.
I don't value cynicism myself but in this case investors should have approached Parker's project with a bit of skepticism.
In the meantime, if you have any extra money sitting around, please send it to me. Why? Let's say that act of faith will change your worldview. Or at least make mine better.