Another man convicted of swindling money from Louisiana’s film tax incentive program must spend six months in federal prison, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
Prairieville businessman J. Matthew Keith, 38, was sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson and ordered to pay $1.2 million in restitution to the state , U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Louisiana Walt Green said in a news release.
Keith’s lawyer, Glen R. Petersen, said his client “made a mistake that he did everything he could to make up for. … Of all the people that were involved in this thing, he did not make a nickel off of this scheme.”
The announcement comes two weeks after Keith’s co-conspirator, 38-year-old filmmaker Daniel Garcia, was given a similar sentence for creating false documentation to fraudulently obtain close to $1 million in film tax credits.
Critics of Louisiana’s film tax plan point to these cases, among a dozen criminal matters related to the incentive policy, as examples of weak spots in the purported economy-boosting program that could allow thieves to steal taxpayer dollars.
In 2013, Keith admitted to using his company, Dirty District Entertainment LLC, which provided technical services to filmmakers, to conspire with Garcia in producing inflated spending figures to the state to qualify for tax credits between June 10, 2009, and March 31, 2010, authorities said.
To promote moviemaking in Louisiana, the state awards tax credits to filmmakers equal to 30 percent of their expenditures once those expenditures exceed $300,000. Once issued, the tax credits can be sold back to the state for cash or to third parties.
Keith signed checks Garcia used in what later would be revealed as bogus spending records, authorities said. Through records purporting to show $4 million in payments, Keith helped garner for Garcia $1.2 million in fraudulent tax credits, according to the release.
At the time of Garcia’s conviction in May 2013, authorities didn’t know the full extent of his fraud and were able to pin him only for $900,000 in illegally obtained credits, Green said. More investigation revealed the amount actually was $1.2 million, he said.
Petersen said Keith cannot afford to reimburse the full amount but will make payments in installments “to the best of his ability.” Other responsible parties also must contribute to the sum, the attorney said.
The investigation was conducted by the FBI and the Louisiana Inspector General’s Office and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Frederick A. Menner Jr.
Follow Maya Lau on Twitter, @mayalau.