Houston attorney Anthony Buzbee claims he was duped into investing a movie deal and has now had his lawsuit moved to federal court.
In October, the powerful attorney who made millions suing BP and now serves as one of Gov. Rick Perry’s defense attorneys, sued Gayle Dickie, Jason Van Eman, James Allen Bradley, Weathervane Productions Inc. and Hey Girl Hey Entertainment LLC/3Way Films.
According to his original complaint filed Oct. 20 in Harris County, Buzbee is suing for fraud against “various Defendants who purport to be in the movie business in California.”
“It is now known that the Defendants are charlatans,” writes Buzbee, who is representing himself in the litigation.
He claims defendants convinced him “through lies and deception” to invest $1.5 million in a movie. When the movie failed to “go forward as promised,” he alleges the defendants lied again and tried to get him to move his money into another project.
Buzbee says his money was being used a security, but not for a movie investment, and the actors and others who were supposedly involved in the movie were not really involved. He claims they refused to give him his money back, and “now admit they are wrongfully holding $1.5 million of plaintiff’s monies, but refuse to return the monies.”
He wants the $1.5 million back, plus $5 million in punitive damages, attorneys’ fees and costs “to ensure this is the last fraudulent scheme that Defendants will be involved in.”
According to the complaint, Dickie and Bradley claim to be movie producers. Hey Girl Hey Entertainment is owned by Dickie. VanEman is investor who also wants to become an actor.
Buzbee says they approached him in Houston this summer, seeking half of the funding they needed to produce a movie called “In Light of the Dance,” featuring the dance troup Burn the Floor. He alleges they told him that the investment would be 80 percent insured by Lloyds of London. They allegedly told him that they had obtained the filming locations, and once they had the $1.5 million they needed the filming would begin in August.
“Defendants also claimed that they had made an ‘offer’ to Ryan Gosling, and that he was considering being in the movie,” Buzbee writes. “Later, Defendants claimed they were in ‘discussions’ with Justin Timberlake.”
When filming did not begin in August, defendants began making up excuses and pushed the start date to October, he claims. Finally, the suit says defendants told Buzbee that “Justin Timberlake’s schedule would not allow the filming until early in the next year.”
Since “In Light of the Dance” would be delayed, the defendants suggested Buzbee put his money “in a movie that was to shoot immediately.”
The attorney says that he then learned that the defendants had been sued for fraud and breach of contract by investors in Hawaii, and “much of what the Defendants had represented was demonstrably false. There was no agreement with the international dance troupe. There was no ongoing negotiation with Justin Timberlake. There was no production schedule.”
Then Buzbee alleges the defendants said they had an agreement with him that prevented him from getting his money back. Buzbee says he never saw such an agreement.
He was able to get a restraining order on Nov. 21, preventing the defendants from moving or withdrawing the funds being held in the Wells Fargo Bank, where he had made the investment deposit. He also amended his original complaint to include more defendants: Forrest Capital Partners Inc., Forrest Capital and Co. LLC, First Clearing LLC, Wells Fargo Bank NA and Wells Fargo Advisors LLC.
On Dec. 1, the defendants requested the case be moved to federal court, since parties are from various states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. It has been moved to the Southern District of Texas-Houston Division.
The Forrest defendants, Dickie, Van Eman, Bradley, Weathervane and Hey Girl Hey are represented by Stephen T. Loden as lead attorney and Allan B. Diamond, J. Maxwell Beatty and Benjamin Garry of Diamond McCarthy LLP in Houston.
Beatty, who signed the court papers for the defendants, did not respond to an email seeking comment.
Jack Ballard and Susan Logsdon of Ballard & Littlefield LLP in Houston represent the Wells Fargo defendants and First Clearing.
Harris County 234th District Court Case No. 2014-60989
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas-Houston Division Case No. 4:14-cv-3431