A rather portly investor, Craig Alder, popped out of almost nowhere and wanted to fund the film that Tim, Jerry, Chet and I were developing. For those of you reading this who think that this is how Hollywood works… you could not be more wrong. In fact, this NEVER happens. So, when it does, it raises all sorts of alarms but, you go down every rabbit hole you can find when trying to fund a film… so down we went.
After having dinner with Craig, Tim was flying in the clouds, thinking that this portion of our plan to rid the world of child sex trafficking would be realized. Tim was convinced that this was real and we quickly pulled together our team, engaging our good friend and mentor, Gerald R. Molen, Academy Award-winning producer of Schindler’s List and Jurassic Park. We didn’t want to tie Jerry to the project until we knew that it was looking like it might happen but it looked like it was time so he came aboard as our Executive Producer.
Craig had offered to fund the film up to 60 million dollars, a grossly over budget figure that he seemingly pulled from thin air without any experience making films. I felt he mostly just tried to impress us with how much money he had. This was the moment the first red flag was raised to our team. It’s been my experience that those with money don’t tell people they have it to invest in your project. Those that can actually fund projects are often the most quiet. Craig was definitely not the quiet type
In the following weeks everything seemed on the level for the most part until we all started smelling a rat. I remember at one point turning to Chet and Tim saying if this guy ever asks us for money… the jig is up…I’m done.
This is where it got fun…at least for Chet and I.
Tim responded quickly that he was going to take a look at Craig. To remind our readers, Tim was at that time a special agent for Homeland Security Investigations–a fact that Craig knew very well. The thought instantly hit all of us: who could possibly be this stupid to attempt to defraud a special agent for the US government?
It seems strange looking back now but it was literally only hours later before Craig called Tim and informed him that he would need $10,000 from us to complete the legal work necessary to release the $60,000,000 for the budget of the film. (That budget number still makes me laugh… where did he pull that figure from?)
THAT’S IT! We were all done within just moments of the call. That day, Tim went to open a file on Craig at his office and found that there was already a large three ring binder on him. It appeared that Craig had been running this racket for decades. The thought zinged through all of us, “Why didn’t we check this out before even taking a meeting with him?” Shame on us. But now the GAME WAS ON!!!
Now, it may appear to some, a rather dumb idea to try and pull a fast one on a government special agent… and in truth… well, it is. Don’t try this at home. I strongly recommend you turn and run the other direction. But this large individual, who knew Tim was a special agent, continued on down his road of deception. Like a semi stuck on a railroad track, we just couldn’t wait for the inevitable collision.
Tim organized his team and an attorney was placed over the case. It took a little time to gather all the evidence and make sure that all the T’s were crossed and I’s were dotted so as to make the tightest case possible, but eventually it was ready.
Chet and I were so excited because Tim had asked us to go undercover with him to set Craig up. Once again it felt like Tim had taken us into the back room to show us all the cool spy toys James Bond gets to play with. We felt so cool, for the first time ever!!!
The day came and we were asked to play our roles, which were basically ourselves. “I can do that,” I thought. There were phones that were really recording devices, additional backup agents and several other agents who would be sitting outside in a car listening to the whole sting go down. Then I got the call that was the biggest bummer of the whole operation… my partner, Chet Thomas, the man with whom I’ve been making films for nearly 20 years, wouldn’t be able to make it to the sting. I cannot tell you what a let down it still is to me now, even 3 years later, that he wasn’t there to share this experience with Tim and me.
He finally showed up wearing sweatpants and carrying a gym bag. He entered the restaurant and we welcomed him gladly. I watched with a sort of sick curiosity about how this was going to go down. Tim began chatting him up, falling into his typical upbeat kid-like personality… curious about everything. With each question Tim would ask, Craig would pontificate for 30 minutes or more, weaving the most elaborate lies you can conceive. The tales became larger and larger until finally I could swear I heard the backup agents laughing behind me.
Finally, my moment came. I was there to get Craig to falsify bank documents. I had been prepped on what I was supposed to say and what I was definitely NOT supposed to say. Like an actor taking the stage for the first time I tried to sound casual and excited while my palms began to sweat…
“I could write you a check for $10,000 right now, but Jerry would kill me if I did that without getting some kind of assurance that you had the $60,000,000 in the bank for the film.”
Craig was a little shocked but only a for a moment. “Oh sure,” he said. “I can get you that by tomorrow.”
FANTASTIC! Meeting done! Right?
That guy went on for over 3 hours talking about his houses, properties, business deals and how much money he had. With each audacious comment he would whip out some crinkled document from his gym bag to show us the paperwork, flashing it in front of Tim and me with the speed of a jungle cat. It was completely ridiculous and on several occasions Tim and I would laugh and kick each other under the table. He never did pick up on the fact that we were laughing at him and not with him.
We left the restaurant knowing that as soon as Craig falsified those bank statements it was all over for him.
The funniest part was that Craig never suspected the two backup agents sitting behind us who literally went through no less that six courses of fine Denny’s menu items and never left their posts. I’m sure those poor guys didn’t come to work for the next few days.