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Talent agent gets probation in New York fraud case

6/17/2014 TOM HAYS , Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — A California talent agent for film, television and Broadway actors was sentenced on Thursday to three years' probation on charges he embezzled $500,000 from one client, then ripped off another to pay it back.

Federal prosecutors had sought up to three years in prison for Peter Strain, calling his conduct "deliberate, persistent and harmful." A lawyer for Stain claimed the fraud occurred while his judgment was clouded by financial and health problems, and argued he should remain free so he could generate income to reimburse his victims.

"I spend my days with a profound sense of regret," Stain said while asking a judge for leniency. "I will never cease being sorry for what I have done here."

Strain, 64, of Burbank, had pleaded guilty earlier this year to theft charges. His sentence includes six months of house arrest.

The victims weren't named in court papers. Stain has been sued for fraud both by a talent agency representing Michael Madsen, who had central roles in Quentin Tarantino hits "Reservoir Dogs" and "Kill Bill," and separately by John Doman, who played a police commander in HBO's "The Wire."

Prosecutors had accused Strain of diverting about $500,000 earned by his top client for television work in 2011 to a secret bank account so he could pay his American Express bills and buy expensive artwork and other luxury items. In 2010, he repaid that client by stealing from another client who's still owed $350,000.

Strain "spent the majority of the embezzled funds on his own personal expenses as well as expenses for his romantic partner, and then lied to his clients in various ways in order to cover up his fraud," prosecutors wrote in court papers.

In a letter to the court, the second client wrote, "The financial and emotional impact of this theft and betrayal of trust is considerable. These funds represented a substantial portion of what my wife and I will rely on once I am no longer working."

Prosecutors estimate they can raise $200,000 for victims by selling Strain's art.

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