LOS ANGELES (AP) — An aspiring actor pleaded guilty Monday to running a massive Ponzi scheme that raised at least $650 million from investors in phony Hollywood film licensing deals.
Zachary Joseph Horwitz, 34, of Los Angeles, entered a plea to a federal charge of securities fraud and could face up to 20 years in prison when he’s sentenced in January, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office.
Prosecutors alleged that from 2014 to 2019, Horwitz secured hundreds of millions of dollars in loans for his film company, 1inMM Capital LLC, by falsely claiming the money would be used to buy distribution rights to movies that would then be licensed for distribution to streaming platforms such as Netflix and HBO.
Instead, Horwitz used some of the money to repay earlier investors in a classic Ponzi scheme and to support a lifestyle that included buying a $6 million home, prosecutors said.
More than 200 investors, including three of Horwitz’s closest college friends and their family members, lost about $230 million, authorities said. Horwitz had appeared in a number of movies, usually in small roles, under the name Zach Avery.