Mac Parker's film has taken an unexpected plot twist -- from inspirational movie to courtroom drama.
"'Birth of Innocence' is a film and story of hope, about beauty and the wonder of who we really are," he told reporters at a Friday press conference.
But Vermont banking officials are investigating whether the Addison County storyteller broke state law by selling unregistered securities to finance the film. Tom Candon, deputy commissioner of the Banking, Insurance, Securities and Health Care, says Parker raised $10 million from nearly 700 investors. At issue is whether this money was in the form of investment securities, which would need to be registered with the state but were not, or loans.
"I do know the difference between securities and loans," said Sharon Gutwin, a supporter from Williston who joined Parker at the press conference. "This has always been a personal, and in my opinion, a very personal loan to a friend."
"I didn't buy a security from this man," said supporter Christopher White of Vergennes. "I took out a loan. I get a fixed rate of interest, a term. It's as simple as black and white."
The state says it's not that simple. Deputy banking commissioner Tom Candon pointed to contracts that identify them as investments.
"It talked about the investor invests how much money," Candon said, reading from documents filed in court. "Mac Parker commits to repaying the investment in full and goes on and on using the word investments."
But he says it's not just a matter of terminology.
"Our job in the securities division and the department is to be aware of what is being sold to the public, making sure we protect the public and investors," Candon said, calling this the largest securities investigation he can remember in Vermont.
The case is now in Washington Superior Court. The state has frozen Parker's assets and blocked him from raising more money until a judge determines whether he is doing so legally.
"We're not talking about a loan between you and I or a few friends," Candon said. "We're talking over 700 people, 2,400 contracts and millions of dollars, and there's also an expectation of gain here or return, and therefore we do feel this does fall under our securities laws."
Parker's supporters say they think the state is overstepping its bounds.
"It is representative of the very worst of what a government body can take on," White said. "And it's enough. It quite simply is enough."
And a new twist in this case -- a co-producer on the movie, a doctor from Connecticut who Parker says is jointly responsible for paying back investors -- has disappeared. Candon says he too is interested in locating this person.
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