Film Producer Convicted of Bribing Government Official for More Film Tax Credits

April 29, 2009

From the Times-Picayune:

New Orleans lawyer and film producer Malcolm Petal was sentenced to five years in federal prison on Thursday for conspiring to bribe a former state official in exchange for tax credits.

U.S. Judge Lance Africk said he gave Petal the maximum sentence, because his actions bolstered the state’s reputation for rampant political corruption at a time when residents are striving to shed that image.

“You decided to do things in the traditional, stereotypical way,” Africk said. “The state of Louisiana received a black eye.”

Petal rose to prominence in Louisiana’s nascent film industry as his company, LIFT Productions, became the dominant firm utilizing the state’s lucrative tax-credit program meant to promote the filming of movies in the state. But his guilty plea late last year is focused on another company, Break Beat LLC, which received tax credits to film live music festivals in 2002 and 2003.

Break Beat received $1.35 million in tax credits in December 2003. In exchange, Petal, through an intermediary, paid $67,500 to Mark Smith, the state official in charge of the program, according to the court record. The intermediary was William E. Bradley, a law school friend of Smith hired by Petal because of the two men’s close relationship. Bradley received $67,500 out of the transaction.

We now have proof that like any other source of discretionary government largesse, the film tax credits program can attract corruption.


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