By Jamie McLeod
An FBI investigation into a trail of forged contracts led to the arrest of a former Ryerson student last week.
On Nov. 2, Gary Howsam was arrested for allegedly defrauding a bank of $35 million and using the money to finance films for his company Greenlight Film & Television.
Howsam, who attended Ryerson in the 1970s, has produced films with actors Christian Slater, Harvey Keitel and Steven Seagal.
According to documents obtained by the Eyeopener, Howsam took out a loan with Comerica Bank, and used foreign distribution contracts as collateral. The FBI says the contracts were forged.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
“The distribution agreement had been visibly altered,” said Special Agent Jennifer Teasdale, the lead investigator on the case, in her submission to a Los Angeles court.
The investigation came to a head when Howsam had dinner with Harel Goldstein, a former colleague. Goldstein was wearing a wire.
Howsam and Goldstein had worked on six projects together. The FBI said Goldstein had helped Howsam forge the contracts.
Over the course of dinner on Nov. 2 at Charlie G’s in Los Angeles, the two men talked about the forgeries.
Teasdale said Howsam told Goldstein that if anyone asked about the fraud charges, he should just say, “I don’t know what you’re fucking talking about.” Howsam then told Goldstein that to secure loans for the film “Going Back”, a made-for-T.V. movie Howsam was working on, they would have to do some “art department” work, court documents say.
Goldstein allegedly cut and pasted sections from legitimate contracts to change dates and signatures.
“The signature of Fabrice Bailly, [French distribution company representative] had quite clearly been physically cut and then applied onto the document,” Teasdale said.
Goldstein then faxed the documents to Howsam, who acted as quality control. After the alleged forgeries, Howsam paid Goldstein about $125,000 because Goldstein was having trouble paying his bills, and “Howsam had gotten him into the situation with Comerica.”
Since his arrest, Howsam has been released on a $500,000 bond, and is forbidden to leave the state of California.
Toronto-based Peace Arch Motion Pictures, where Howsam had been CEO, announced that he was being placed on administrative leave.
In a statement, Peace Arch emphasized that the alleged fraud took place before Howsam was hired, and while they wish him the best with his defence, they will continue with “business as usual.”
Donald Randolph, Howsam’s lawyer, declined comment. Howsam is said to be staying with friends.