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D.A. Raids Filming Promoter

Investigation: Seizures target marketing costs, possible perjury at agency that assists production firms in L.A.

September 06, 2002|STEVE BERRY and ANITA M. BUSCH | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Prosecutors raided the offices of an agency that promotes film production in Los Angeles on Thursday as part of an investigation into its marketing expenses and possible perjury, authorities said.

Records were seized at the offices of Entertainment Industry Development Corp. in the 7000 block of Hollywood Boulevard.

The seizures were part of raids that included the San Dimas home of the agency's president, Cody Cluff, and a Covina residence, according to sources with knowledge about the probe. Cluff declined to comment.

The raid involved investigators from the district attorney's office and officials from the county auditor-controller's office.

Sources familiar with the auditor's probe said investigators have asked about expenditures for tickets to entertainment events, parties and an "owner's box" at a sporting facility, all of which are used for entertaining film company executives and politicians.

The sources said investigators also appear to be interested in political contributions made by the agency.

The district attorney's office declined to comment.

County Supervisor Mike Antonovich said he was notified Thursday morning that subpoenas had been issued. Antonovich praised the agency for helping to attract film productions and for breaking through red tape.

"I was not aware of any misuse of funds or allegations of misuse of funds until I got the county memo this morning," he said. "I believe that [Cluff] has done a good job and the facts will show that."

The corporation promotes Los Angeles to the film industry and helps production companies navigate government permitting processes.

It also coordinates local government services--such as street closures and the rental of city or county facilities--that are involved when production companies shoot films on location throughout the county.

The production companies pay for those services through the development corporation, which forwards the money to the municipalities that provided them.

The 45-person staff keeps $450 from each company to fund its $3-million annual budget.

The county Board of Supervisors received a memo from the auditor's office Thursday informing members that the probe concerned "misappropriation of funds and perjury." There were no further details in the memo.

Morrie Goldman, a vice president at the agency, confirmed that the corporation makes political contributions, but said they were only to causes, not individuals.

For instance, Goldman said his agency has contributed $10,000 to groups opposing secession by the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood. The agency has also contributed to groups favoring expansion of police and fire facilities, Goldman said.

Corporation officials say they do not know what the investigators are looking for.

"We're still trying to figure it out," said Teresa Ellis, the corporation's attorney.

Goldman said: "There has been an inquiry into [the corporation's] marketing expenditures, moneys used to promote Los Angeles to the entertainment industry.

"We've been in communications with [investigators] and providing them with information for the past year, and we will continue to cooperate," he said.

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Staff writers James Bates and Anna Gorman contributed to this report.

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