A 68-year-old Redondo Beach man has been charged in a fraudulent scheme in which he is accused of enticing investors by using the name of a famous TV production company for fictitious investments which he later used for his personal expenses, including trips to Las Vegas, authorities said.
Charles Hensley, owner of Desilu Studios Inc. and Migranade Inc., has been charged with 11 counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated impersonation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement Wednesday. August 10.
As part of the suspected scheme, Hensley began using the name “Desilu” in 2016 – the same name used by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s company for shows such as “I Love Lucy” and “Star Trek” – claiming that he was making new content for his company, Desilu Studios.
From August 2017 to May 2018, Hensley launched investments in his businesses that he operated from offices in Manhattan Beach and other Southern California locations, alleging that they were real and successful, and that he supported the company with his personal funds. However, Hensley had few assets and repeatedly refused overdrawn checks and bank accounts, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Hensley also allegedly provided victim-investors with false and misleading valuation letters valuing Desilu Studios at over $11 billion and Migranade at over $50 million.
The companies had little to no assets and operated as front companies used in the investment scam, prosecutors said.
Hensley was also accused of misrepresenting that his companies had acquired intellectual property, distribution agreements, subsidiaries and development rights, saying they were actively developing projects. This included new movies and television projects under the Delisu name.
He also allegedly misrepresented that Desilu Studios was about to go public and that the company’s shares were worth more than face value.
In reality, Hensley stole someone’s identity to appear as Desilu Studio’s chief financial officer by donating material, prosecutors said. He targeted companies in the entertainment industry, convincing owners and executives to sell their companies in exchange for shares of Desilu Studio which had no value, they alleged.
Several victim-investors were affected by the scheme, including some who wired about $331,000 identified in wire fraud counts, prosecutors said.
A representative for Hensley could not immediately be reached for comment.
Hensley now faces up to 20 years in federal prison for each count of wire fraud and a mandatory two-year prison term for the aggravated identity theft count, officials said.
This isn’t the first lawsuit Hensley has faced regarding Desilu Studios.
In 2018, CBS Studios Inc. sued Hensley and two of his Desilu companies in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, claiming that CBS had used the Desilu name for decades, including for the show “I Love Lucy,” and that Hensley and his companies were infringing the rights of CBS by trying to obtain a trademark for the Desilu name and by operating the Desilu websites.
That lawsuit noted that Hensley was convicted more than a decade ago by the same court for marketing and selling an unapproved bird flu drug, a crime for which he was probated. The CBS lawsuit accused him of not being a television or film producer, but rather of intending to use the Desilu name in order to induce “investments” in his front companies.
CBS won that lawsuit, with a judge ruling in May 2019 that CBS owned the Desilu trademark and assigned the domain names of Desilu websites to CBS. The judge also ordered Hensley and his agents to dissolve the Desilu companies or change their names to remove any reference to Desilu.