AN ENGLISH conman posed as a Hollywood friend of director Stanley Kubrick to con an aspiring screenwriter couple out of €146,000.
Richard Maskery, 42, claimed he was a protege of legendary director Stanley Kubrick and was involved in producing Tom Cruise movies Mission Impossible and Eyes Wide Shut.
He convinced the couple he was negotiating with stars including Jonathan Rees-Myers and leading Hollywood directors and extracted nearly £55,000 of their savings to finance the project.
Friends of the couple, from Battersea, south London, invested nearly £54,000, which was never seen again and another £12,000 cash was lost in a book publishing deal associated with the 'Shadows of Blood' film.
Maskery, of Finningham, Stowmarket, Suffolk pleaded guilty that between August 1 2009 and February 28 last year he dishonestly, with intent to make a gain, falsely represented he was involved in the production of the film Shadows of Blood. He was jailed for three and a half years.
"Your offence was extremely unpleasant. This was an elaborate and sophisticated fraud," Kingston-upon-Thames Crown Court Judge Paul Dodgson told Maskery.
"The intent was to defraud the victims for as much as possible and you were the architect of the edifice that backed-up this fraud.
"You supplied the pretence that genuine actors were involved and you played an important part in persuading these victims that it was real."
In September 2006 Maskery received 18 months imprisonment for a string of frauds during which he posed as a successful Hollywood movie producer.
Prosecutor Rory Keane told the court an accomplice of Maskery, who is currently on the run, befriended the couple at a party and told them he had the contacts to turn their script into a film.
Maskery posed as the managing director of To Die For Films and over the next eighteen months kept the pretence alive that Shadows of Blood was on the brink of production.
"This was completely bogus throughout and all the sums of money were wasted and frittered away on a fantasy-type lifestyle and running-up large bills," said Mr Keane.
"Maskery was the draughtsman of the fraud and suggested various actors, but kept coming up with problems with the studio to delay production and continued encouraging the victims to reach deep into their pockets."
He also convinced investors his production company had made lavish television commercials for Porsche and Nike and he was deep in negotiations with Warner and Paramount Pictures.
By chance, the accomplice was snapped by paparazzi outside a Soho club walking behind Clint Eastwood, lending credibility to the swindle.
The con was only exposed when the Australian girlfriend of Maskery's accomplice complained her boyfriend was abusing her credit card while living it up in the West End at the five-star Sanderson Hotel.
Maskery's lawyer Miss Maria Dineen told the court her client was "determined to rehabilitate himself" after being released from prison in February 2007.
"Finding employment proved harder than anticipated and he was sacked from a marketing management job after a matter of weeks when the managing director discovered his background.
"From then Mr Maskery spiralled downwards and he and his partner incurred significant debts and he felt he was letting her down emotionally and financially.
"It was while in this frame of mind he was approached by his co-defendant, who he had met in prison, and desperate for work and money foolishly lent himself to the enterprise."