Actor who faked deals with HBO, Netflix pleads guilty in $650M Ponzi scheme

Actor who faked deals with HBO, Netflix pleads guilty in $650M Ponzi scheme
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An actor who was arrested earlier this year for allegedly defrauding investors of more than $650 million by falsely claiming to have deals with major media companies agreed to plead guilty to one count of securities fraud, according to court documents.

In April, Zachary Horwitz, 34, was arrested after the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) accused him of running a Ponzi scheme that resulted in $277 million of fraudulently acquired funds owed to investors.

Horwitz allegedly attracted potential investors by showing them fake emails that made it appear that his company, 1inMM, was in the process of acquiring distribution rights for major media companies.

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The SEC stated that 1inMM had no relationship with HBO or Netflix, as Horwitz had implied.

Documents filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California showed that Horwitz agreed to plead guilty and pay off any criminal debts as ordered by the court. The plea agreement states that Horwitz will be required to "pay full restitution" to the victims of his alleged scheme.

Horwitz potentially faces up to 20 years in prison and millions of dollars in fines.

U.S. District Judge Mark C. Scarsi has set a sentencing hearing for Jan. 3.

"Mr. Horwitz has accepted responsibility for his actions, and yesterday’s plea is an important step in that process of accepting responsibility," the law office representing Horwitz said when contacted by The Hill.

According to prosecutors, Horwitz's scheme began in 2014 and was still intact in 2021, telling investors in March that a return on their investment was imminent.

"Instead of using the funds to acquire films and arrange distribution deals, Horwitz operated 1inMM Capital as a Ponzi scheme, using victims’ money to repay earlier investors and to fund his own lifestyle, including the purchase of his $6 million Beverlywood residence," the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California said in a statement.

"Horwitz defrauded five major groups of private investors, but these entities derived funds from more than 250 sub-investors. By late 2019, 1inMM Capital began defaulting on all of its outstanding promissory notes, according to the plea agreement, in which Horwitz admits that he owes investors more than $230 million and that his scheme has caused substantial financial hardship to at least five investors," the attorney's office added.

As an actor, Horwitz, who also goes by Zach Avery, has mostly appeared in small sci-fi and horror films. He appeared in the 2014 war film "Fury," starring Brad Pitt and Shia LaBeouf, in which he had an uncredited role as a medic.