The story was already stranger than fiction: Guy Griffithe, former president of Bridgegate Pictures Corp., and maker of a mockumentary on thumb wrestling, had purportedly moonlighted as a weed business fraudster.
Now it’s getting even weirder. Griffithe is claiming that the fraud allegations against him, which culminated in him getting slapped with a $5.3 million court judgment, were cooked up by a pair of “unhinged” investors bent on harassing and extorting him. The producer is suing the couple and seeking $25 million in damages.
In his complaint filed in California’s Riverside County, Griffithe alleged that Joseph and Brenda Samec sank $150,000 in a side business Griffithe was involved in that was structured to reap rewards from a marijuana growing operation, knowing that it was a “very risky” venture. A financial advisor, who is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit, allegedly told the Samecs that there was “no promise of revenue, only profits after expenses under the terms of the agreements.”
Through circumstances not fully explained in the filing, Joseph Samec came to sign a promissory note in March 2017 with Bridgegate, the film production company where Griffithe made the mockumentary WTF: World Thumbwrestling Federation and a VR thriller starring Nicolas Cage, The Humanity Bureau. Shortly after, Samec “became unhinged over the loan” and started demanding repayment, beginning with harassing emails, then litigation, an online defamation campaign and stalking, according to the complaint.
No one has a right “to take matters into their own hands and become a vigilante,” Griffithe told us in an interview. “No one should have to go through this type of harassment, slander, threats and sustain this type of fear and loss because someone is unhappy with the outcome of a business arrangement.”
He added that the promissory note was executed as a bridge loan to allow him to finish The Humanity Bureau, and it was separate from the marijuana-related investment.
An online disparagement campaign
In his complaint, Griffithe alleged he made several settlement offers for well over the amount due on the loan, but the Samecs rejected them, and began to put fliers on his car outside of his Corona, Calif. home, which said: “SCAM ARTIST GUY GRIFFITHE.” With help from a friend at a local union benefit fund, the couple launched a social media campaign against Griffithe, creating the impression that there were multiple victims of his “fraud,” according to the complaint, filed March 25.
On platforms like Instagram and Facebook, and websites like Ripoffreport, accounts with several different aliases posted comments referring to Griffithe such as “he has already stiffed several investors so far!” and “yes, Guy Griffithe is a con man for sure look him up online, and in court all public information, we cannot continue to allow SCUM like this to keep pulling this white collar crime.”
At least some of these aliases were traced back to Samec and the union representative, as were other aliases that were used to send threatening emails to Griffithe, according to the complaint. After Samec was seen in a truck outside of Griffithe’s home, Griffithe obtained a restraining order against him, the producer alleges. Samec continued to bring legal actions against Griffithe, eventually leading him to seek bankruptcy protection, according to the complaint.
The Samecs and the union representative “have gone to grave lengths to no avail in order to disparage, humiliate and destroy the plaintiffs, their businesses, and their reputations, amongst other parties for their own benefit and amusement,” the producer’s complaint said.
The Business of Business called a phone number listed publicly for Joseph Samec, who resides in Covina, Calif. An individual who answered said Joseph Samec “is not here right now,” declined to take a message for him and promptly hung up. Representatives for the union did not respond to a request for comment.
Neither admitted nor denied SEC findings
Whatever went down between Griffithe and the Samecs, a federal judge in Santa Ana, Calif. ordered Griffithe to pay more than $5.3 million in penalties and disgorgement last November, in a case filed against him by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC claimed that he and a business associate misled at least 25 investors about the prospects of their marijuana growing company in Washington State. Griffithe then “spent investor funds on personal and unrelated business expenses,” including payments for luxury cars, boats, and some of Bridgegate’s films.
The movie producer neither admitted or denied the allegations under the terms of his settlement. He resigned as president of Bridgegate shortly after the SEC filed its case in January 2020 to avoid harming the company’s image.
Griffithe, who is now in his 40s, is described in a biography on IMDB as having a hardscrabble upbringing. Born in San Bernardino, Calif., he was one of seven children raised primarily by a single mother. After a motley career as a telemarketer, a mortgage broker, and then an actor, he became president of Bridgegate Pictures, where he has been involved in producing at least nine films.
At Bridgegate, he specialized in films made in VR formats, including The Humanity Bureau, alien invasion movie The Recall with Wesley Snipes and horror-thriller Distorted, starring Christina Ricci and John Cusack.