Some aspiring Hollywood stars simply can’t wait to catch their big break in the entertainment industry and pursue other means to acquire fame and fortune, some of which are not always legal.
One of those is a bit role actor known as Zach Avery, real name Zachery Joseph Horwitz, who was just sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for operating a fraudulent Ponzi scheme that bilked investors out of hundreds of millions of dollars, Breitbart reported.
This effectively ends his career in the entertainment industry, which to be sure didn’t appear to be going particularly well, as Horwitz’s IMDb page revealed that he’d only been credited with small roles and appearances in about 15 different productions between 2009 and 2021.
Defrauding investors for hundreds of millions
According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, the 34-year-old Horwitz was arrested at his Beverlywood home in Los Angeles in April 2021 and charged with wire fraud, a crime that could result in up to 20 years in prison.
That release provided a few details on the actor’s Ponzi scheme, which involved him soliciting investments into his company — 1inMM Capital LLC — to purportedly purchase the rights to foreign films and then license those films with platforms like HBO and Netflix.
Except it was eventually learned by investigators that the whole thing was a scam. Horwitz had never purchased any films nor licensed anything with the platforms, and the funds he raised were either used to pay back earlier investors or to pay for his $6 million Beverlywood home and other personal expenses.
At the same time as that arrest in April 2021, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced that it had obtained an emergency freeze on all of Horwitz’s remaining assets.
The agency alleged that Horwitz had raised upwards of $690 million in the fraudulent scheme over several years, but according to the FBI, he still owed about $227 million in promissory note payments to some of the private investors he’d duped.
Ponzi scheme ends with a prison sentence and restitution payments
Fast-forward to Monday and an update from the Department of Justice about Horwitz, who was sentenced to the full 20 years in federal prison following a guilty plea in October 2021. In addition to the prison sentence, he was also ordered to pay more than $230 million in restitution to the investors he had bilked as part of his illegal Ponzi scheme.
“Defendant Zachary Horwitz portrayed himself as a Hollywood success story,” prosecutors told the court. “He branded himself as an industry player, who, through his company … leveraged his relationships with online streaming platforms like HBO and Netflix to sell them foreign film distribution rights at a steady premium … But, as his victims came to learn, [Horwitz] was not a successful businessman or Hollywood insider. He just played one in real life.”
In addition to defrauding investors of their money, the release also revealed how Horwitz had engaged in separate but related crimes — though it doesn’t appear he will face extra charges — to keep the scheme going once questions started to be asked by impatient investors, including crafting fake licensing agreements and forging the signatures of actual executives at HBO and Netflix.
The ruse did not last, though, and now instead of being a rich and famous Hollywood star, Horwitz will be a destitute and infamous federal inmate.