‘Chef’ Fraud Tied to Federal Criminal Probe


     LOS ANGELES (CN) – A judge Thursday halted civil litigation in a dispute over Jon Favreau’s movie “Chef” in light of a guilty plea in a $5 million federal wire fraud case.
     In August 2013, Sous Chef LLC of Encino sued Xavier Mitchell and his company Providence Films in state court, alleging fraud, conversion and breach of written contract in a civil dispute over a third-party bank account for “Chef” production funds.
     Sous Chef’s parent company Aldamisa Entertainment produced the 2014 movie that Favreau directed and starred in. Dustin Hoffman, Robert Downey Jr., Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johansson and Bobby Cannavale made up the cast of the comedy-drama.
     In its court filing, Sous Chef claims Mitchell and Providence defrauded it of it almost $300,000 after the companies agreed to each invest $3 million in the film, for a total investment of $6 million.
     Since Sous Chef had already contributed $2.5 million in funding, it says it agreed to uphold its end by wiring $500,000 into an escrow account at a Brea, California Bank of America branch.
     But Providence never deposited its $3 million into the account, and Mitchell transferred $297,175 of Sous Chef’s $500,000 deposit to two bank accounts not listed in the escrow agreement, Sous Chef alleges.
     On Thursday morning, Sous Chef attorney Julian Lastowski told Superior Court Judge Maureen Duffy-Lewis that a related criminal complaint against Malachai Levy, also known as Ralph Maurice Metters, had changed the complexion of the case.
     In court documents obtained by Courthouse News, Levy pleaded guilty on Jan. 30 to wire fraud, following an FBI investigation. The complaint charged Levy with using investment scams to defraud victims of $5 million.
     “His sentencing is set for early summer. I anticipate that may impact this litigation and this office may seek amendment of the complaint,” Lastowski wrote in civil court papers filed on May 1.
     The attorney said that “depending on review of documents” Sous Chef may add defendants including individuals Portia Love, Sean Winston, Mark McCoy and entities Tier One International, Penny Bid and Alliance Funding Solutions.
     Xavier Mitchell and Providence Films are not named in the federal criminal complaint. But Sous Chef claims in its 2013 filing that Tier One International and Penny Bid were holding the funds that Mitchell allegedly transferred out of the escrow account.
     During the hearing in the downtown courtroom, Lastowski told Judge Duffy-Lewis that a settlement had been reached with some of the defendants.
     In a telephone interview after the hearing, Lastowski said he could not comment on pending litigation. When asked to clarify which parties to the lawsuit had settled, the attorney cut the interview short.
     The judge stayed the case and scheduled a status conference for July 9.