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The fake DVD rights deal the size of a house

How much do you think the rights to classic 1960s TV show The Man from U.N.C.L.E. are worth? Tens of thousands of dollars? Hundreds of thousands? A house, perhaps…? If you chose that last option, as unusual as it sounds, you’d be on the right track, surprisingly. A DVD distribution company is pursuing possible fraud surrounding the ownership of a multi-million dollar property in Florida following the owner’s attempt to defraud the DVD company by offering it rights to the spy series that she didn’t actually own in the first place.

The strange and wonderful story starts in 2005, when Lindsay Dunlap and her company Ember Entertainment approached Anchor Bay Entertainment to sell exclusive DVD rights to The Man from U.N.C.L.E.; offering not only the master tapes of the series but also material that could be presented as DVD extras, Dunlap came to a deal with Anchor Bay which saw her receiving $625,000 in total ($500,000 for the TV show masters, $125,000 for the additional footage material). Everyone seemed happy with the arrangement until Anchor Bay announced plans to release the show on DVD and was promptly contacted by Warner Bros. Television, who sought to inform the company that it actually owned the rights to the show and wondered why Anchor Bay thought any differently.

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, legal action followed, and in 2010, the resolution to said lawsuit also came swiftly: Within two weeks, a jury found in favor of Anchor Bay and ordered a $7.3 million verdict against Lindsay Dunlap. That, however, was only the beginning of the story. Almost two years after the initial verdict was announced, Dunlap has yet to offer any kind of restitution to Anchor Bay, resulting in a second lawsuit.

This time around, Anchor Bay is asking for the courts to investigate the possibility that Dunlap perpetuated a second fraud against the company, this time relating to her residence. During the first lawsuit filed by Anchor Bay, Dunlap reportedly “quitclaim” her Malibu home to the John Yuka & Giulia Family Trust, a move that Anchor Bay is now saying was done “to hinder and delay judgment collection by [Anchor Bay parent company] STARZ.” According to the lawsuit, Dunlap – who surrendered ownership of the property to her ex-husband John Minghella to settle her debt to him for “millions of dollars” incurred “because he gave up his career for me” – has been living in the house, originally purchased for more than $3 million, for free since giving up ownership.

The new lawsuit, filed against not just Dunlap herself but also the John Yuka & Guilia Family Trust, sees Anchor Bay now pursuing the potential seizure of the property as, essentially, a consolation prize following lack of appropriate post-lawsuit settlement. Somehow, I feel that Napoleon Solo wouldn’t approve.

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