Thursday, August 30, 2007

Arraignment set for former state film recruiter

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Former state film industry recruiter Mark Smith is scheduled to be arraigned Sept. 7.

Federal prosecutors have charged Smith with bribery and conspiracy in what they say was a scheme to inflate budgets for movies shot in Louisiana so that producers could reap more lucrative tax credits.

The court refers to the Sept. 7 re-arraignment as a "change of plea hearing," a typical step in a legal process when a defendant is cooperating with law enforcement officials and intends to plead guilty. Smith would not comment.

U.S. Attorney Jim Letten has said he expects more charges to result from the investigation, a joint effort by federal prosecutors, the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service.

Smith traveled widely to rally support for the state's motion picture development effort while he served in the Department of Economic Development under Governors Mike Foster and Kathleen Blanco from 2002 to 2006.

The state offers tax credits, which can be converted into cash, to movie investors and producers in a program that has made Louisiana one of the nation's top film destinations.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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