A little-known Los Angeles-based actor has been indicted for running a massive Ponzi scheme that bilked investors out of roughly $230 million, federal prosecutors said.
Zachary Joseph Horwitz, who has credits in horror and science fiction flicks under the name Zach Avery, was charged Tuesday by a federal grand jury with five counts of securities fraud, six counts of wire fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Prosecutors allege the “White Crow” actor, who was arrested on April 6, duped investors from 2014 through 2019 to secure $690 million in loans by telling them he was using the funds to acquire licensing rights to films that HBO and Netflix had agreed to distribute abroad, primarily in Latin America.
Horwitz falsely claimed his company, 1inMM Capital LLC, would acquire the films due to its “solid relationships” with online platforms, but reps from HBO and Netflix say the companies had no dealings with the firm, federal prosecutors said earlier this month.
An indictment alleges that Horwitz was instead using the loans from one group of investors to repay earlier victims. In all, more than 200 people, including three of Horwitz’s college friends and their relatives, lost roughly $230 million, the newspaper reported.
The ill-gotten funds were used to finance Horwitz’s “opulent lifestyle,” including to buy a $5.7 million home in Los Angeles’ Beverlywood section, complete with a pool, gym, screening room and a 1,000-bottle wine cellar, according to the indictment.
The Securities and Exchange Commission has frozen Horwitz’s assets as the agency tries to account for the lost funds, the Times reported.
Less than $9 million in spending by Horwitz was tallied in the SEC’s initial accounting, including purchases of the Beverlywood home, $165,000 worth of “high-end automobiles” and another $137,000 for chartered jet flights, according to the newspaper.
The actor also spent at least several million dollars on low-budget films he appeared in, including “Last Moment of Clarity” and “Gateway,” a person who worked with him told the Times. It’s unclear where those funds came from, the newspaper reported.
Prosecutors said Horwitz began defaulting on the loans in early 2019 and then fabricated emails to investors purportedly from Netflix and HBO to prolong the scheme, leading to the new charges of aggravated identity theft.
Horwitz, who spent more than two weeks in jail, was released from custody after posting $1 million bond, the Times reported. It’s unclear if he’s hired an attorney.