Criminal Justice

Plea Deal re Extorted $1M Screenplay Gives Feds a Stake in New 'Mary, Mother of Christ' Biopic


In a criminal justice saga that reads like a fictional entertainment industry thriller, the feds have acquired a 10 percent ownership stake in an upcoming religious movie biopic penned by a co-screenwriter of the $610 million blockbuster The Passion of the Christ.

Drug trafficker Jorge Vázquez Sánchez, 34, has agreed as part of a plea deal in a federal case in San Antonio to turn over the ownership stake in Mary, Mother of Christ after admittedly helping to extort a then-owner of the screenplay, Arturo Madrigal, to give up his stake by threatening Madrigal and kidnapping his brother, the Houston Chronicle reports. Vázquez then sold the screenplay for $1 million.

Madrigal, a Mexican businessman in San Antonio, reported the crime to San Antonio police, who recorded the kidnappers’ threats, the newspaper article recounts. However, the FBI declined to pursue the case because it did not involve U.S. citizens. At that point Madrigal obtained his brother’s release by turning over the screenplay to Vázquez, according to plea documents and police.

Vázquez has also agreed to plead guilty in federal court Thursday to charges that he helped two brothers from Guadalajara, who are now fugitives, to launder drug money in San Antonio and elsewhere, the article continues.

It reports that the brothers, Mauricio Sánchez Garza, 41, and Alejandro Sánchez Garza, 42, have been indicted in San Antonio on money-laundering charges, although one of the brothers has said on his now-disabled Twitter account that merely making such allegations “doesn’t mean it’s true.”

In 2006, Arturo Madrigal and Mauricio Sánchez got from Benedict Fitzgerald, due to a foreclosed business loan, the screenplay subsequently extorted from Madrigal by Vázquez, the newspaper recounts. Fitzgerald also co-wrote The Passion of the Christ. Joel Osteen, a well-known Texas-based pastor and televangelist who bills himself as being at the helm of the nation’s biggest and fastest-growing church, is the executive producer of the Mary movie, the Chronicle says.

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