(CN) – The Wrap, an entertainment news blog, cooked up a bogus story about a wealthy film producer stealing documentary footage about Mayan prophecies, the producer claims in court.
“Some reporters and publications, in a rush to ‘scoop’ the story, team up with and rely on highly questionable ‘sources’ without any real investigation,” according to the complaint published in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
“Couple this with an unscrupulous, dishonest individual with an ax to grind and you have the perfect poison. So it is here.”
Elisabeth Thieriot, who was married to the last San Francisco Chronicle publisher to belong to the paper’s founding family, says the lies have bloomed from an “attempt to hijack a very important film project, which Ms. Thieriot has financed, about Mayan findings and artifacts.”
Though she does not name him as a defendant in the lawsuit, Thieriot says her former business partner Raul Julia-Levy fed the bogus story to The WrapNews “in an attempt to wreak havoc” on her life.
Thieriot says she and Julia-Levy founded a production company to create a feature-length documentary titled “Revelations of the Mayans: 2012 and Beyond.”
Julia-Levy is described in the complaint as “an unscrupulous, dishonest individual with an ax to grind” and “a well-publicized and lengthy history of making false statements to the police and in legal proceedings.”
After just four days of filming in Mexico in April, Julia-Levy stopped production on the documentary because he could not get a passport to travel to Guatemala, according to the lawsuit.
Thieriot says they both agreed “to relieve Julia-Levy of his involvement with the documentary” and their company, but he in turn “initiated a campaign of retaliation and revenge” by trying to stop production and by filing false claims with Mexican authorities.
On May 9, an article appeared on thewrap.com titled “Mayan Mystery: Doc Financier Accused of Fleeing with Film Footage.” It allegedly accused Thieriot of fleeing Mexico, illegally filming and stealing footage.
Thieriot says the article relied entirely on Julia-Levy’s false allegations and an attached letter from the Mexican Attorney General.
Though the letter, which was written in Spanish, recounts “Julia-Levy’s fraudulent claims to Mexican authorities,” it does not require Thieriot to stay in Mexico, the complaint says.
Thieriot also claims that Julia-Levy rented film equipment under his own name using false documents, which allowed him to mislead authorities into believing that Thieriot had no legal right to it.
The Wrap should not have trusted Julia-Levy because of his documented history of deceit, according to the complaint.
Thieriot says that her representatives offered to give The Wrap the facts about the film and about Julia-Levy, but the websote’s reporter, Steve Pond, still went ahead with the article.
“During that call, Ms. Thieriot’s representative cited to an article published by the Los Angeles Times and discussed another published by The New York Times, reporting on Julia-Levy’s history of making false claims,” according to the complaint.
As quoted in Thieriot’s lawsuit, the Los Angeles Times article describes plans for Julia-Levy to testify as a defense witness for record producer Phil Spector who was on trial for the murder of an actress in 2007.
Prosecutors allegedly assailed Julia-Levy’s credibility with “a ‘3-inch-thick document,'” according to the article quoted in the complaint.
“Specifically, the Los Angeles Times reported:
“The prosecution, in its filing, contended that Julia Levy – whom they list as having six aliases – had a history of making false statements to police and in legal filings. Levy’s ‘long and varied history of run-ins with law enforcement’ includes charges of driving under the influence, drug possession for sale, domestic violence, child cruelty, sexual assault and multiple allegations of providing false identification to police, the prosecutor’s filing stated.
“A Sheriff’s Department investigation report included in the prosecutor’s filing said Julia Levy had used fake names and Social Security numbers and falsely claimed to have attended Harvard University and USC,” according to Thieriot’s lawsuit.
Thieriot seeks $2 million in damages for libel and false light invasion of privacy. She is represented by Stanton Stein of Liner Grode Stein Yankelevitz Sunshine Regenstreif & Taylor.