RUTLAND — A Connecticut man, charged with being the silent partner in a scheme that defrauded millions from investors who put money into the production of the unfinished film “Birth of Innocence,” is seeking to keep key evidence against him out of court.
Louis James Soteriou, 54, of Middlebury, Conn., was in U.S. District Court in Rutland on Wednesday, arguing to have statements he made to federal prosecutors and investigators excluded.
Vermont storyteller Malcom “Mac” Parker pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges earlier this year. But Soteriou, who was charged in March with 18 federal offenses including wire fraud, mail fraud, conspiracy and money laundering, is set for trial.
Public defender Steven Barth is arguing that his client’s statements to investigators before his arrest in March and at the Burlington office of the U.S. attorney in August 2010 must be removed from evidence because Soteriou was never advised of his rights before questioning.
In a response to Barth’s motion, federal prosecutors argued that Soteriou was not in police custody, requiring reading of his Miranda rights, during the interview in Burlington or in the interview with federal agents at his Connecticut home this year.
Judge Christina Reiss took the matter under advisement and said she would issue a decision later.
The reports Soteriou is seeking to suppress contain a number of statements and explanations not made public in the case to date.
Parker’s attorney has said in the past that Soteriou was given almost $4 million of investors’ money to help him achieve the spiritual enlightenment and out-of-body experience that Soteriou allegedly believed he needed to achieve for the movie to be a success.
But no explanation of how Soteriou allegedly spent the money was given until Barth’s motion was filed recently with summations of the interviews written by federal investigators attached as exhibits.
In those reports, investigators say Soteriou used the money to live on and to buy a new home and lease an expensive vehicle.
During the interview in Burlington in 2010, Soteriou allegedly said that during the making of the film he leased a 470 Lexus for $1,100 a month. In the interview he had with investigators earlier this year, Soteriou said he used a $120,000 payment from Parker in 1999 — ostensibly for chiropractic treatments, lifestyle coaching and research on the film — to place a down payment on his new house in Yelm, Wash., and to pay debts on his deceased brother’s Connecticut gym called “Work Out World.”
Soteriou told investigators, according to the reports, that he did not tell Parker about how he spent the money, nor did Parker know that Soteriou was having trouble supporting the gym which he’d been paying to keep afloat since 1999.
Some of the statements Soteriou made during the interviews were described as “peculiar,” “strange” and “not logical” by investigators who took the stand to testify during the suppression hearing Wednesday.
For example, Soteriou spent much of the most recent interview with investigators spitting into a cup because he believed he had glue in his mouth since the crowns on his teeth were removed.
In the course of acknowledging that he had rented “nice places to live in” during the making of the film, he also told investigators that “he spent countless hours in dark closets.”
It’s unclear if that practice was part of the transformation Soteriou said he was trying to accomplish — a process investigators said he described as an activation of the gene code to achieve immortality.
Soteriou also acknowledged to investigators that he purposely concealed his involvement in the film and the amount of money he was receiving from Parker.
But he also denied using the production to scam investors and his final comments to investigators in March were proclamations of his innocence.
“I am not a shammer,” he told investigators. “‘The Birth of Innocence’ is not a lie.’”
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