Hollywood actor arrested in $ 227 million Ponzi scheme

Small-time actor Zachary J. Horwitz was arrested Tuesday in Los Angeles on a federal charge that he ran a massive Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors of $ 227 million by promoting fictitious movie licensing deals with HBO, Netflix. and other platforms.

Horwitz, 34, who has appeared in minor films under the stage name Zach Avery, was accused of fabricating emails from HBO and Netflix executives about non-existent movie distribution deals in an attempt to avoid demands for payment from the investors.

In an affidavit filed in Los Angeles federal court, FBI agent John Verrastro presented a brazen plan by Horwitz to persuade investors to invest huge sums of money in his film distribution company, 1inMM Capital LLC.

Horwitz shipped bottles of Johnny Walker Blue Label whiskey along with an annual investor report in 2015 that highlighted a “library” of 52 films that his company allegedly distributed in Africa, Australia, New Zealand and South America, according to Verrastro. It included the 2012 horror film “The Lords of Salem” and the 1989 action film “Kickboxer” with martial arts action star Jean-Claude Van Damme.

In reality, the FBI said, Horwitz had no licensing agreements and diverted much of the money for personal gain.

Horwitz also falsely told investors that it had “strategic partnerships” with HBO, Netflix, and other platforms to license overseas distribution rights. Investors were promised returns of up to 40% in one year.

But since December 2019, Horwitz’s company has defaulted on more than 160 payments due to its investors, according to the FBI. Its largest investor, JJMT Capital, LLC, of ​​Chicago, is owed more than $ 160 million in equity and about $ 59 million in investment earnings, Verrastro said.

In total, Horwitz owes investors about $ 227 million in equity alone, according to the FBI.

FBI agents arrested Horwitz on a wire fraud charge Tuesday morning at his home in Beverlywood. They also searched the home for evidence of securities and mail fraud, money laundering and other crimes, according to the FBI affidavit. The home is for sale on Zillow for $ 6.5 million.

Horwitz’s attorney, Anthony Pacheco, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Horwitz has been acting professionally for more than a decade, but none of his films are well known. Like Zach Avery, he appeared in the 2018 sci-fi thriller “Curvature.” A review in the Times was titled: “Elegant sci-fi thriller ‘Curvature’ caught in the first dimension.” A Variety critic said the film “wants the heart to race and the mind to bend at the same time, but in both departments.”

Horwitz appeared in court by video Tuesday afternoon from federal jail in downtown Los Angeles.

“Do you understand what the government claims you have done wrong?” The American magistrate Jean P. Rosenbluth asked him.

“Yes, I do,” he replied.

Assistant United States Attorney Alexander Schwab urged Rosenbluth to keep Horwitz in custody until trial, saying he could flee if released.

“The chances of the defendant having some of that money hidden are pretty high,” he said.

Rosenbluth shared the concern, saying, “There is a lot of money, in quotes, missing here.”

But he agreed to release Horwitz on $ 1 million guaranteed bail.

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