Chinese Animation Company Claims Victim of Massive $234 Million Fraud
A Chinese visual effects and animation studio filed a lawsuit on Thursday alleging it was the victim of two American scam artists who forged documents, impersonated the CEO and defrauded investors of $234 million.
Base FX, headquartered in Beijing, says it was duped into trusting the two men – Remington Chase and Kevin Robl – over several years, during which they engaged in several funding deals and a joint venture in Malaysia .
However, over the past year and a half, the firm has discovered that the men were using the relationship as a lure for investors, who were tricked into signing over $234 million, into what they thought were loans and investments in the company and its projects. . Base FX alleges that Chase and Robl forged the signature of the company’s CEO on investment documents, created fake entities and fake bank accounts, asked someone to impersonate the CEO during calls with investors and set up a fake office for the company in Pasadena, California. The company is unable to account for any of the funds and says the pair appear to have embezzled millions of dollars for their personal use.
Base FX employs around 450 people and has worked on blockbusters like “The Avengers,” “Captain America” and “Iron Man,” as well as TV series like HBO’s “The Mandalorian” and “Boardwalk Empire.” . The company also produced an anime film, “Wish Dragon”, which was released theatrically in China and elsewhere on Netflix.
The company is now facing angry demands and lawsuits from investors who were defrauded. The company notified the FBI and Chinese detectives have also opened an investigation into the case and arrested at least one Chinese national, according to the lawsuit.
The fate of Chase and Robl is unknown. Efforts to reach Robl for comment were unsuccessful. An attorney who represented Chase in an earlier, unrelated Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuit declined to comment.
Chase, known to his friends as ‘Bill’, is a former film producer who helped fund a string of action films in 2012-2014, including ‘End of Watch’, ‘Lone Survivor’ and “Escape Plan”. In 2014, the LA Weekly reported that he and an associate, Stefan Martirosian, each had criminal convictions for trafficking cocaine, were allegedly involved in an international assassination plot, and each worked as federal informants.
Chase subsequently dropped from public view, but continued to cultivate relationships in the entertainment industry.
Base FX CEO Chris Bremble was introduced to Chase in 2013 by the company’s agency, United Talent Agency. At the time, Base FX was looking to expand its special effects business and move into producing action and animated films. Chase was touted as a “proven and successful financier,” according to the lawsuit. In 2015, the CEO of Film Finances Inc., a global leader in completion guarantees for TV and film projects, also vouched for Chase, according to the lawsuit, telling Bremble that he had worked with Chase in the over the years and had developed a strong business relationship. as well as a friendship.
Chase courted Base FX for several years, in what the lawsuit describes as a “long scam.” Chase invited Bremble to his hangar at Hawthorne Municipal Airport near LAX, where Chase introduced him to billionaire Elon Musk, with whom he appeared to have a relationship. On another occasion, Chase flew Bremble in his helicopter to Kevin Costner’s house. Costner met them on the lawn and they had lunch together, according to the complaint.
Bremble agreed to go into business with Chase in 2017. Chase funded “Wish Dragon”, an animated co-production of Base FX, Sparkle Roll and Sony, and also funded a new visual effects studio in Malaysia, in exchange for 46% of the capital of the joint venture.
Chase also vouched for his associate, Robl, a screenwriter and producer who was also engaged in film financing. In 2020, President Trump appointed Robl to the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Robl had paid $100,000 in total to the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee in September 2019, according to campaign finance records.
According to the lawsuit, once Base FX entered into business with Chase and Robl, the two gained intimate knowledge of the company’s finances and operations, which they could use to deceive potential investors. The lawsuit alleges that Chase and Robl would borrow from investors on behalf of the company, pass some of it on to the company, and then pocket the difference. They also purported to transfer equity and security interests in Base FX projects to investors, according to the suit.
In 2019, Base FX agreed to give Chase a 5% stake in the company, along with a portion of potential “Wish Dragon” profits, in return for the investments it had secured. Chase also backed out of its stake in the Malaysian studio, which was sinking and turning into a failed investment.
The SEC announced a civil action against Chase in September 2020, alleging he defrauded investors in another company, Knightsbridge Entertainment. The SEC charges – which Chase agreed to settle without admitting wrongdoing – alleged he misappropriated $9 million in investor funds for his personal use, including $1.8 million to pay bills credit card, $1.5 million to donate to the University of Southern California, and nearly $1 million to buy several Teslas.
Knightsbridge had raised $62 million in total, of which only a third went for its stated purpose, while other funds were used to repay unrelated obligations, according to the SEC.
In November 2020, investors began contacting Base FX, demanding payment on loans made to the company through Chase and Robl, according to Base FX’s lawsuit. That’s when Base FX began unraveling the elaborate web of counterfeits, according to the lawsuit. Throughout 2021 and early 2022, Base FX received a series of refund requests totaling $234 million, far exceeding the company’s $50 million enterprise value.
After being hit with a demand for reimbursement on a $100 million line of credit, Bremble confronted Robl, who “apologized and begged the CEO of Base not to contact the authorities, promising to reimburse all funds,” the lawsuit states.
Bremble also confronted Chase about one of the forged documents, according to the suit.
“Defendant Chase admitted that the defendants created the false document and assured the CEO of Base that the defendants would return all funds owed to the investors,” the lawsuit states. “Base, however, has since learned that defendants have failed to reimburse their investors and continue to raise funds by falsely claiming to be affiliated with Base.”
The lawsuit alleges that Base FX has suffered “serious damage to its reputation throughout the entertainment industry” and must now defend itself against a series of lawsuits from investors.
On March 2, investors Paul Liang and Fang Fang Ho filed a federal lawsuit against Chase, Robl, Bremble, Base FX and numerous other entities, seeking reimbursement of nearly $41 million. The lawsuit alleges that Robl and Chase courted Liang and Ho by taking them to premieres of HBO’s “Wish Dragon” and “Westworld,” and on the set of “Willy’s Wonderland,” a Nicolas Cage movie that was filming in Georgia. Chase, a former child actor, also claimed to have been childhood friends with “Star Wars” producer Kathleen Kennedy, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also accuses Bremble of assuring investors that Chase and Robl were trustworthy. According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs received regular payments on their investment until 2019, when a payment was delayed. Payments ceased altogether in 2020. Investors demanded repayment throughout 2020 and 2021, receiving repeated assurances that they would get their money back. On January 27, 2022, investors received a false confirmation of a cable transaction, according to the lawsuit.
According to the Base FX lawsuit, Robl and Chase entered into fraudulent deals with bundlers, which allegedly collect investments from many small investors. One of those investors, Richard Chung, filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles state court on March 3 against Chase, Robl, Bremble, Base Media and others, alleging he had received no stakes. to profits on a $600,000 investment in “Wish Dragon”. Two other investors, Claire He Yi and Wenqi Li, filed similar lawsuits on Dec. 16, alleging they were owed $400,000 and $100,000, respectively. Three investment groups also sued Jan. 24, claiming they were defrauded of $2.75 million.
In yet another action, investors Na Wu, Guowen Liu and Xiofang Yi sued Chase, Robl and others in Orange County on January 28. Base FX is not named in this lawsuit. The plaintiffs allege that they agreed to make a $42 million investment in post-production financing, banking companies and aircraft leasing companies. They believed they could obtain immigration visas for the investments, as well as reimbursement, but later discovered that Chase misappropriated the funds, according to the complaint. The lawsuit also alleges that Chase forged their signatures in order to sign for himself the deeds to three properties in Orange County, worth a total of $30 million. They discovered the theft in December when they realized the locks had been changed, according to the lawsuit.
Base FX is represented by Aaron Dyer, Kimberly Jaimez and Cassandra Love of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP. Base FX’s lawsuit seeks damages — including recovery of the 5% stake awarded to Chase — as well as an order prohibiting Chase and Robl from raising funds on the company’s behalf.
An FBI spokesperson declined to comment.