Kaufman CEO claims he lost $2M in movie swindle

Real estate magnate sues “Scarface” producer to collect $13 million in damages
By Adam Pincus | September 20, 2013 12:36PM

The head of one of New York City’s dynastic real estate families is suing one of Hollywood’s most successful movie producers, alleging that he and a friend lost $3 million investing in a movie that was never made.

George Kaufman, CEO of the Kaufman Organization, said in a new lawsuit that starting in 2008 he and his longtime friend Lawrence Herbert invested a combined $3 million with Martin Bregman, the famed producer of films such as “Scarface” and “Carlito’s Way.”

The Kaufman Organization owns or manages about 5 million square feet of mostly office space concentrated in Manhattan, according to the firm’s website.

Kaufman and Herbert claim that Bregman told them he was making a movie based on Nelson DeMille’s bestselling 1990 novel “Gold Coast,” About A Wall Street lawyer and a mobster living on Long Island’s tony North Shore, and that the $15 million project had been “green lighted” with Richard Gere in the lead role.

Bregman could not be reached for comment.

Kaufman cut the first check, for $200,000 in November 2008, to Bregman Productions, according to the suit filed yesterday in New York State Supreme Court. Over the next three years, Kaufman contributed $2 million total, and Herbert, founder of the color system Pantone, handed over $1 million, the complaint says.

However, Bregman apparently never started making the movie, and his requests for money for “pre-production expenses” were nothing more than an alleged fraud. The pair is seeking reimbursement for their investment, plus $10 million in punitive damages.

“Unbeknownst to [Kaufman and Herbert], Bregman’s assurances were a fabrication,” the complaint alleged.

An attorney for Kaufman and Herbert did not respond to a request for comment.

Kaufman has a long history with filmmaking in New York City, including owning the production studio Kaufman Astoria Studios, where the 1993 film “Carlito’s Way” was filmed.

Bregman has committed similar allegedly fraudulent movie schemes in the past, the suit alleges.