An American actor was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Monday for defrauding $650 million in a massive Hollywood Ponzi fraud and using the money to fund a luxury lifestyle of yachts, planes, and fast vehicles.
Zachary Horwitz made up bogus contracts with HBO and Netflix to dupe investors into turning over large sums of money, which he spent on private flights, top-of-the-line cars, and a lavish Los Angeles residence with a wine cellar.
According to the Department of Justice, prosecutors claimed that Horwitz “portrayed himself as a Hollywood success story.”
“He established himself as a participant in the business, leveraging his contacts with internet streaming platforms like HBO and Netflix to sell them international film distribution rights at a consistent premium.”
“However, as his victims soon discovered, (Horwitz) was neither a successful businessman nor a Hollywood insider. He’d just finished one.”
Horwitz, who played Zach Avery in low-budget horror films, informed investors that he was buying overseas distribution rights for US films and then selling them to streaming services.
The 35-year-old handed each victim a paper promising a significant payoff in six to twelve months.
He kept the program going for seven years by utilizing new investors’ money to reimburse the old ones in what could be termed as a Ponzi fraud.
More than $230 million had disappeared by the time it all went apart.
In October, he committed security fraud and claimed that he had never purchased any film rights or negotiated any distribution deals.
According to the Los Angeles Times, it would be “impossible to fathom a white-collar crime more severe,” prosecutors said in a brief to the judge, noting that he began his criminal career by defrauding university buddies.
“He began by breaking the confidence of his own pals, individuals who let their guard down because they couldn’t believe someone, they’d known for years would unflinchingly cheat them and their families out of their life savings,” they said.
Horwitz was sentenced to 20 years in prison for Ponzi fraud and ordered by Judge Mark Scarsito to compensate his victims $230 million.