SANTA FE (KRQE) - An Albuquerque couple with a grand plan for a movie studio and related development is facing a long time behind bars after being accused of defrauding investors.
They're now charged with 57 counts and accused of illegally taking in $500,000 for the project from investors.
Ruby Handler Jacobs and her husband Michael Jacobs are the owners and operators of Rio Grande Studios.
He is a well-known photographer and New Mexico-based film director. Her background includes acting in television productions.
According to the indictment, the Jacobses told investors they were creating a large development including a movie studio, a baseball stadium, amusement park, shopping district, hotel and a racetrack and that the investment would bear significant returns.
Authorities say individual investors gave anywhere from $500 to $100,000.
But instead of creating what they promised with the money, authorities say the couple used the money to pay bills for Rio Grande Studios, which was in default for many of its debts.
The studio even had lawsuits against it for nonpayment of debt.
Some investors did press the Jacobs for answers about where their money went and the status of the promised project.
They say the Jacobs answered with pleas of poverty, requests for additional funds. Some investors say the Jacobs claimed they were sick or had just returned from doing humanitarian work and that's why there was a delay in getting the project going, according to the indictment.
The Jacobs are charged with 40 counts of selling unregistered securities, 16 counts of fraudulent sale of securities and conspiracy.
If convicted of all counts, they are looking at 169 years in prison. They have yet to appear in court and enter pleas to the charges.
Authorities have identified 16 alleged victims so far.
Early in 2005 at a news conference attended by Rio Rancho officials the Jacobses announced plans to build a Hollywood-style studio with sound stages at what was to become Rio Rancho's City Center with the new city hall and amphitheater.
Other parts of the overall development were to be built nearby.
The couple opened a small production facility off Osuna Road NE in Albuquerque, but the Rio Rancho project never materialized.
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