Birth of Innocence partner agrees to plea deal
By Brent Curtis
STAFF WRITER | March 30,2013
The silent partner in a scheme that took millions of dollars from investors in a Vermont film has agreed to a plea deal that could send him to jail for up to seven years.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Vermont announced Friday that Louis J. Soteriou, 54, of Middlebury, Conn., has agreed to a deal that would require him to plead guilty to two of the 18 charges against him.
In exchange for his guilty plea to charges of conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering — charges that carry a maximum prison term of 30 years — during the making of “Birth of Innocence,” prosecutors have agreed to cap his sentence at seven years and drop 16 additional fraud charges brought against him a year ago.
Prosecutors said no plea date has been set for Soteriou, who remains free on court-ordered conditions.
Soteriou is accused of being part of a nine-year scheme that bilked as much as $28 million out of about 100 investors. His case was slated to end in a three-week trial featuring reams of financial documents as well as a small army of witnesses.
Soteriou’s partner in the film, Vermont storyteller Malcom “Mac” Parker, pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges last year and is awaiting sentencing.
Investigation of the troubled film revealed that $28 million in investor contributions had been made to the film from 2000 to 2009, but that only $700,000 had gone toward its production.
The rest, prosecutors said, was used either to repay earlier investors or was given to Soteriou to aid him in what was described in court filings as a “quest to achieve a level of spiritual consciousness that would allow Soteriou to escape his own body.”
Soteriou, a chiropractor who consulted patients in regard to “spiritual, dietary and other lifestyle matters,” allegedly received $4 million of the film’s investments to achieve a higher state of enlightenment, which prosecutors said the two men regarded as an integral component in the film’s success.
In the plea deal agreement filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Burlington, prosecutors said Soteriou has acknowledged that he knew the money he received was from “specified unlawful activity.”
But in the plea deal, prosecutors also noted that Soteriou continues to believe in both his spiritual journey and the movie that he needed enlightenment to make.
“Mr. Soteriou maintains that his desire to complete ‘Birth of Innocence’ and his desire to complete his spiritual evolution were sincere and that he continues to believe he will complete his spiritual evolution, that ‘Birth of Innocence’ likewise will be completed and the investors will be repaid,” prosecutors said in the agreement.
The plea deal noted that the court “must order full restitution to the victims” in an amount that will be determined by a federal judge.
Comments released by Parker, who faces a potential six-year jail sentence, have been damning of the Connecticut man.
In 2010, Parker’s lawyer wrote in a nine-page statement titled “Regarding Mac Parker” that Parker realized Soteriou had used and deceived him after a decade of finding investors for “Birth of Innocence.”
Faced with the mounting need to repay investors promised returns often in excess of 12.5 percent, Parker’s attorney wrote that “Mac redoubled his efforts to set this situation right in every way he knew how, and continues those efforts, including this decision to cooperate with the prosecution of Lou Soteriou, which reflects Mac’s understanding that Soteriou brutally defrauded him, as well as influencing him to put so many others at risk.”