A California man pleaded not guilty to charges of bilking investors out of $5.5 million by fraudulently claiming to be producing a government-backed television show about the Department of Homeland Security.
Joseph M. Medawar, 43, of Palos Verdes, entered his plea Monday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. Trial was set for Dec. 13.
Medawar was held without bond after being named in a 23-count indictment accusing him of mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.
Prosecutors contend he solicited money from more than 70 investors, including churches, then spent much of it on cars, housing, clothes and meals.
Medawar is accused of telling investors he had permission to use the DHS seal and name and that President George W. Bush had personally endorsed the project, the AP reports.