Actor Zachary J. Horwitz, better known by his stage name Zach Avery, was arrested on Tuesday in Los Angeles in connection with a major Hollywood Ponzi scheme, which federal officials say has deceived investors by more than $ 227 million (about R $ 1.2 billion), according to the Los Angeles Times.
Avery is accused of making licensing agreements with Netflix, HBO, and other platforms in order to secure funding for his film distributor, 1inMM Capital LLC, according to the FBI. In a sworn statement filed with the Los Angeles federal court, FBI agent John Verrastro said Avery used the funds for “personal benefit” and to make payments to previous investors “in the style of a classic Ponzi scheme”. He used part of the money to buy his home in Beverlywood in 2018, now on sale for $ 6.5 million. The six-bedroom house has a swimming pool, wine cellar and gym.
Avery founded 1inMM Capital LLC, based in Los Angeles, in 2013, claiming to distribute films in English to the Latin American market through partnerships with HBO and Netflix, the FBI said. In 2015, he allegedly sent investors bottles of Johnny Walker Blue Label whiskey, along with an annual report that said the company had “successfully acquired and distributed 49 films through the 1inMM Capital banner without incurring a single loss in the process. “
He also claimed to have expanded his partnership with Netflix and HBO to distribute films to Australia and New Zealand. “With this growth, we have the ability to safely and profitably distribute over 25 additional films per year, creating ample opportunity for investment and substantial growth for our thriving film library,” says the annual report, according to Verrastro.
Investors were deceived by promises of a return of up to 40% within a year, said Verrastro. Because payments were due, Avery invented email exchanges with Netflix and HBO executives to justify delays. “In reality, neither Horwitz [Avery] neither 1inMM Capital engaged in email conversations with Netflix or HBO, nor Horwitz [Avery] or 1inMM Capital have never had any business relationship with Netflix or HBO, “wrote Verrastro.
Since December 2019, he has defaulted on more than 160 payments and owes investors $ 227 million in principal alone, the statement said. Each payment is allegedly tied to a single film that Avery and 1inMM Capital claimed to own distribution rights and license to HBO or Netflix.
Avery is facing charges of electronic fraud and appeared in court on Tuesday by teleconference. The United States’ assistant attorney, Alexander Schwab, allegedly asked the judge to keep Avery in custody until the trial, saying he could risk running away, reports the Los Angeles Times. “The chances that the defendant will have part of that money saved are very high,” he said.
Despite concerns, a judge set Avery’s bail at $ 1 million, but he will remain in custody until the bail is approved. A hearing was scheduled for May 13 to discuss the matter, the US Attorney’s Office said. Avery’s acting work includes ‘Last Moment of Clarity’, ‘The White Crow’ and ‘Farming’. He was also an extra in Brad Pitt’s war film, ‘Iron Hearts’ (‘Fury’).
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