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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | Back issues
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Angels Say Producer|Rolled Them for $7 Million

LOS ANGELES (CN) - A Los Angeles couple claim a Canadian man "stole or squandered" $7 million earmarked for a production of the play "Tamara," and used his ill-gotten gains to bankroll his mistresses and lavish lifestyle.

Michael and Priscilla Wright say they and four co-investors gave lead defendants Barrie L. Wexler $2.2 million for a version of "Tamara" in Vegas, which Wexler said he could produce for just $4 million.

"Tamara," a 1981 play by John Krizanc based on the meeting between Gabriele d'Annunzio and Tamara Lempicka, whom he hired to paint his portrait, won awards in Canada and ran for 9 years in Los Angeles.

"Wexler promised to act competently and honestly and to devote 100 percent of his professional time to opening the Show and operating it successfully. Wexler assured plaintiffs' representative, George W. Carroll, that he enjoyed high standing in the entertainment community and in Las Vegas. He represented that he had personally produced 'Tamara' in other cities, including Los Angeles and New York, where it was highly successful," according to the Superior Court complaint.

The complaint continues: "Wexler failed to develop a feasible plan to open the show. When it became clear that the show could not be opened for $4 million, he failed to inform the investors. Instead, he concealed the true facts from the investors. He repeatedly breached agreements with vendors and impeded progress on the show by diverting plaintiffs' and the other investors' money to his own use."

The Wrights also sued Wexler's alleged mistress, Shole Wolpe, and her son, Alexander Wolpe, claiming they helped Wexler erase hard drives that showed where the investors' money really went.

According to the complaint, Wexler approached two friends, Laura and George Carroll, and asked them to invest in a Las Vegas production of "Tamara." The Wrights, acquaintances of Carroll, say they ponied up more than $700,000 of their retirement savings for the play.

"At the time of the 2005 discussions, Wexler knew that the $4 million budget was unrealistically low. Wexler's objective was to get his hands on cash, even if he had to lie to do it. Wexler concealed that he was experiencing serious financial problems, which included an $18,040 judgment against him, entered July 11, 2005, for unpaid rent on the Wexler family residence," the complaint states.

The Wrights say that in addition to paying his back rent and overdraft charges, Wexler used the money to "finance a luxurious lifestyle for himself and his family."

That included a bar mitzvah for his son "to which he brazenly invited the Carrolls and other investors," plus "lavish vacations, a luxury car, an upscale home in Las Vegas and other personal expenses," the investors say.

"Further, although married at the time, Wexler also engaged in sexual liaisons with women he purported to hire to work on the show. Wexler spent substantial amounts on these women. One such woman was defendant Sholeh Wolpe. Wolpe spent a substantial amount of money on Mrs. Wolpe, including money used to help her buy a house in Los Angeles," the complaint states.

Another woman, Italian Ana Bolognesi, was hired from Milan to work on the show, but actually was Wexler's "sexual companion," and "performed no legitimate work for the show," the Wrights say.

After Wexler dumped Bolognesi he shacked up with Shole Wolpe, who was married to someone else at the time, the Wrights say.

"Wexler and Sholeh Wolpe traveled extensively together, staying at expensive hotels and spas, at investors' expense. Wexler's scheme by mid-to late 2007 grew to the point where he was misappropriating investor money to support three households: one in Las Vegas where his family lived; another in Los Angeles where Mrs. Wolpe and her son, defendant Alexander Wolpe lived; and a third in Las Vegas where Wexler and Mrs. Wolpe would stay at expensive accommodations. Beginning in or about late 2007, Wexler began to abandon the show and to focus his time and investors' money on his personal lifestyle and relationships," according to the complaint.

Meanwhile, the Wrights say, the "Tamara" production "languished."

They say Wexler failed to pay contractors or secure rights to stage "Tamara" in Las Vegas, though he paid $60,000 to a London design firm, Dewynters, to develop a logo for the show. The Wright say that while meeting with that firm, Wexler and Wolpe used investors' money to stay at the Dorchester Hotel, "one the most luxurious and expensive hotels in the world," running up a $6,781 tab.

The Wrights seek compensatory damages for breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, negligence and racketeering. Michael Wright, who is representing himself and Priscilla Wright, did not immediately respond to a request for an interview.

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