In moves reminiscent of how the FBI brought down Al Capone over tax evasion, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office is sending out subpoenas focusing on Harvey Weinstein’s finances as part of a grand jury investigation.
While much attention has been given the past month to The Weinstein Company’s bankruptcy proceedings in federal court, several writs have gone out to the producer’s business associates and advisors from Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance Jr.’s team over the past few weeks, Deadline has learned. Casting a wide net, this portion of the effort led by prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon has put the spotlight on Weinstein’s backing of Broadway productions including the musical Finding Neverland and his personal expenses.
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“They are following Harvey’s money and investors to connect the dots and make a financial misconduct case,” one insider told Deadline of the flurry of subpoenas coming out of the D.A.’s office in what was initially set up as an inquiry into two allegations of sexual assault against the much-accused Weinstein. “It’s just like Al Capone,” another source said with a shout-out to the Roaring Twenties era larger than life Chicago gangster and bootlegger. “They’re hoping to find something that doesn’t add up in the books, put the squeeze on a weak link, or pull out a whistleblower that can lead them to an indictment and arrest. It’s a fastball approach.”
None of the subpoenas issued so far by Illuzzi-Orbon’s team seem to be centered on the sexual assault claims NYPD detectives have been probing the past several months, Additionally, with one or two exceptions none of the writs have asked for a witness to appear in person before the grand jury; only documents have been asked for and provided up to now. That could change in the coming weeks, sources say.
The latest news follows a series of meetings prosecutors from the Manhattan D.A.’s office had with Weinstein Co. executives in January in Los Angeles. Those multi-hour sit-downs did center on the sexual assault allegations, according to sources familiar with the gatherings.
Sources also say some of those documents being requested in the current subpoenas are related to the scandal that enveloped AIDS research foundation amfAR and Weinstein last year. Funds from the 2015 Cannes gala event and auction apparently were used to pay $600,000 of a debt that Weinstein owed the American Repertory Theatre for mounting the pricey Finding Neverland before it moved to an ultimately unsuccessful Broadway run. That predated the New York Times’ devastating October 5 exposé alleging decades of sexual harassment and sexual abuse by Weinsetein.
Although Weinstein expressed outrage about the amfAR accusations last fall, longtime chair Kenneth Cole fell on his sword, saying in February he would exit after his role in the tacit arrangement with the producer sparked shock among the nonprofit group’s high-profile backers.
In the realpolitik of the Empire State, it should be noted that many of the most recent Weinstein-related subpoenas have come since New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo stepped into the situation. Aiming for a third term but facing an increasingly vigorous primary challenge from former Sex and the City star and longtime activist Cynthia Nixon, Cuomo responded on March 19 to pressure from Time’s Up advocates by ordering a review about why Vance’s office did not put forth criminal charge against Weinstein after the New York Police Department documented allegations by Ambra Battilana Gutierrez in 2015.
Last fall, the D.A.’s office, who said earlier this year it will cooperate fully with any review, pointed the finger at the Big Apple’s cops for dropping the ball despite have a wire on the model when she met with the producer at the Tribeca Grand Hotel.
“While the recording is horrifying to listen to, what emerged from the audio was insufficient to prove a crime under New York law, which requires prosecutors to establish criminal intent,” said Chief Assistant DA Karen Friedman-Agnifilo on October 10. “Subsequent investigative steps undertaken in order to establish intent were not successful,” the prosecutor added, probably not contributing much to lessening some of the friction between the D.A.’s office and the NYPD over Weinstein, who has contributed in the past to Vance’s campaigns.
The Manhattan D.A.’s office declined comment on the situation or the subpoenas when contacted by Deadline. A rep for Weinstein also had no comment on the matter.
In a twist of something like fate, this matter finds Illuzzi-Orbon once again pitted against attorney Benjamin Brafman. Now representing Weinstein, Brafman was retained by ex- International Monetary Fund boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn when he was accused in 2011 of sexually assaulting a NYC hotel maid. While ending Strauss-Kahn’s expected bid for the French presidency, that case was eventually dismissed on the recommendation of Illuzzi-Orbon’s team at the D.A.’s office after a number of inconsistencies in the accuser’s telling of events emerged.
In addition to being investigated by the Manhattan D.A. and the NYPD, Weinstein is being investigated by the LAPD, who sent three cases to the L.A. County D.A. on February 8. As UK Police continue their probe, the Beverly Hills Police passed two cases of sexual assault to Jackie Lacey’s office on January 2. There are also nearly a dozen lawsuits filed in the courts against Weinstein from some of the more than 80 women who have gone public in the past several months with their tales of assault or harassment by the producer.
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