- Marco Rubio: U.S. at social, moral crossroads
- ‘We’re coming for you, Barack Obama’: Top U.S. official discloses threat from ISIL
- White flags baffle NYPD: ‘We’re lucky it wasn’t a bomb’
- N.Y. Gov. Cuomo’s office interfered with, pressured corruption commission: report
- Brit lawmaker: I would fire on Israel if I lived in Gaza
- VA apologizes to forgotten Marine veteran locked in Fla. clinic, forced to call 911
- U.S. social and economic trends on worrisome track, survey finds
- McDonald nomination unanimously referred to full Senate
- Chuck Norris honorary chairman of NRA voter registration campaign
- GOP outraged Obamacare investigators able to get coverage with fake IDs
US taxpayers getting cut of ‘Passion’ prequel
Question of the Day
SAN ANTONIO (AP) - The American taxpayer may be getting into the movie business.
In a real-life case of drugs and extortion that could itself make a pretty good screenplay, federal prosecutors have forced a Mexican drug trafficker to turn over his stake in a planned prequel to Mel Gibson’s 2004 blockbuster “The Passion of the Christ.”
If the movie gets made, the U.S. government will receive a cut of the profits.
Some of the big names behind the Hollywood project include megachurch pastor Joel Osteen, who had no idea about the script’s unsavory backstory.
“When you get a script, you just don’t think to say `Hey, was this script ever tied to a Mexican cartel?’” said Donald Iloff, a spokesman for Osteen's Lakewood Church in Houston. The script was already being handled by a legitimate production company when Osteen got involved.
Jorge Vazquez Sanchez pleaded guilty this week in federal court to extortion and money laundering in a deal that required him to give up a 10 percent stake in future profits of “Mary, Mother of Christ,” which is scheduled to begin production this year and includes Osteen as an executive producer.
The script was written by the same person behind “The Passion of the Christ,” which became a worldwide smash and earned more than $611 million.
Had Vazquez kept his stake, “we don’t know what would have happened,” the company said in a statement. “We have assembled an amazing team to bring it to the big screen. Now the American taxpayers can be part of this incredible project.”
The screenwriter, Benedict Fitzgerald, had to give control of the script to a company called Macri Inc. after it foreclosed on a loan to Fitzgerald, said Richard Rosenthal, attorney for Aloe.
Then Vazquez and one of his co-defendants extorted Macri’s owner, a San Antonio businessman named Arturo Madrigal, to wrest the script away. At one point, the conspirators even kidnapped Madrigal’s brother in Guadalajara, Mexico, according to court documents.
Vazquez, a Mexican citizen identified in court documents as a drug trafficker who laundered money, acquired the screenplay in 2008.
Before the company issued a payment, Aloe executives hired an entertainment copyright attorney who spent more than three months researching the screenplay’s origins. Federal prosecutors contacted them last year seeking documents for the transaction.
TWT Video Picks
By Andrew P. Napolitano
Perhaps we're not as free as we think
- CARSON: Costco and the perils of mixing politics and business
- House task force to recommend National Guard on border, faster deportations
- Obama orders Pentagon advisers to Ukraine
- Tom Petty: 'No one's got Christ more wrong than the Christians'
- 'We're coming for you, Barack Obama': Top U.S. official discloses threat from ISIL terrorists
- Netanyahu's Wikipedia page replaced with giant Palestinian flag
- Beretta moving to Tennessee over Maryland gun laws
- HURT: The cost of 'free' water in Detroit
- DEACE: How to go from civil rights icon to bigot in one quote
- Latest Obama claim: I don't learn anything from the news
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq