North Carolina

Church members roped into $13 million Ponzi scheme by North Carolina man, feds say

Hal Brown purported to be a well-connected fixture in the entertainment industry focused on “faith and family,” according to his company website.

In reality, federal prosecutors said, the 69-year-old North Carolina native was operating a multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme.

A grand jury indicted Brown on fraud and money laundering charges after he told investors his Asheville-based entertainment company, Oodles Inc., was selling hundreds of millions of dollars worth of television shows and movies to the likes of Disney, Paramount and Apple.

“Brown collected more than $13.5 million from at least 23 victims,” an indictment filed Oct. 16 states. Those victims included people who were “at or near retirement age,” as well as “members of his church,” the indictment said.

Brown reportedly used the funds for personal transactions while making payments to investors, prosecutors said.

A representative from Oodles did not immediately respond to McClatchy news group’s request for comment Monday.

From 2012 to 2019, prosecutors said, Brown claimed to be in possession of 420 intellectual properties “under imminent sale” to “various well known media companies.”

He used aliases to exchange emails with victims containing “lulling statements” that explained delays in the transactions as well as forged documents, the indictment states..

According to the indictment, those documents included screenshots of an account summary with a pending deposit of $846 million as well as a letter from the law firm Bray & Krais explaining the delay.

“In truth and fact, both of these images were fraudulent as Brown procured the services of an artist named BM to create both the fraudulent account statement and the fake letterhead from Bray & Krais,” the indictment states.

Brown told the artist the documents were for his daughter’s school project, prosecutors said in the criminal complaint.

The criminal complaint also states Brown forged a letter from Paramount about an impending bid for the intellectual property, which a representative from the entertainment giant later told prosecutors “was not a document Paramount would produce.”

On the Oodles website, Brown said he graduated from the University of North Carolina and traveled the world before starting his own production companies in several locations.

“He has written and produced literally thousands of individual pieces of music and full musical scores for such clients as Disney, Sea World, NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, Warner Brothers, Paramount, Holiday on Ice, Universal Studios, McDonald’s, Honda, Toyota, Coca-Cola and Kellogg’s,” Brown’s biography online states.

He claimed to have written and produced the grand opening of SeaWorld of Texas as well as the launch campaigns for “Wheel of Fortune,” “Jeopardy!”, “The Cosby Show” and “Oprah.” Brown also said he was the “on-air voice” for networks like ABC, Fox and NBC.

“Hal is married with two young children, one with special needs,” the website also states. “Hal and his wife Stephanie are also in the process of adopting two young children from Africa. Their hearts are as one when it comes to the focus they put daily on their faith and family.”

Brown has been charged with securities fraud, wire fraud and transactional money laundering, according to the indictment.

If convicted, prosecutors said, he could face up to 20 years in prison for each of the fraud charges and fines between $250,000 and $5 million. The money laundering charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years and $250,000 in fines.

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Hayley is a Real Time reporter at The Charlotte Observer covering breaking news and trending stories in the Carolinas. She also created the Observer’s unofficial bird beat (est. 2015) with a summer full of ornithological-related content, including a story about Barred Owls in love.