Zachary J. Horwitz, a small-time actor, was arrested Tuesday in Los Angeles on a federal charge that he ran a massive Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors out of $227 million by touting fictitious film licensing deals with HBO, Netflix and other platforms.
Horwitz, 34, who has appeared in minor films under the stage name Zach Avery, was accused of fabricating emails from HBO and Netflix executives about nonexistent film distribution agreements in an attempt to stave off demands for payment from investors.
In a sworn statement filed in Los Angeles federal court, FBI agent John Verrastro laid out a brazen scheme by Horwitz to persuade investors to pour huge sums of money into his film distribution company, 1inMM Capital LLC.
Horwitz sent investors bottles of Johnnie Walker Blue Label Scotch with the company’s 2015 annual report that highlighted a “library” of 52 films his company was supposedly distributing in Africa, Australia, New Zealand and South America, according to Verrastro. The roster of films included the 2012 horror movie “The Lords of Salem” and the 1989 action film “Kickboxer” with martial arts action star Jean-Claude Van Damme.
Horwitz told investors falsely that he had “strategic partnerships” with HBO, Netflix and other platforms to license the foreign distribution rights. The investors were promised returns as high as 40% within a year.
In reality, the FBI said, Horwitz had no licensing deals and diverted much of the money for personal benefit. He used some of the money for the 2018 purchase of his Beverlywood home, now listed for sale for $6.5 million. The six-bedroom home features a pool, wine cellar and gym.
Since December 2019, Horwitz’s company has defaulted on more than 160 payments due to his investors, according to the FBI. Its largest investor, JJMT Capital, LLC, of Chicago, is owed more than $160 million in principal and about $59 million in investment profits, Verrastro said.