After pleading guilty to defrauding investors of $650 million, Zachary Joseph Horwitz, a low-budget actor in film, was sentenced Monday to 20 Years in Federal Prison.
U.S. District Judge Mark C. Scarsi pronounced the Los Angeles sentence and stated that Horwitz must pay $230,361,884 for the proceeds of the scheme.
Horwitz convinced five investors groups and more then 250 people to lend him money. He claimed he could buy movie rights directly from producers and then sell them to Netflix, HBO, and Sony Pictures Entertainment for a large profit, as these platforms took advantage of global consumers' shift towards streaming, according to prosecutors.
Horwitz claimed that he would return as high as 45 percent, and they showed fraudulent documents, including agreements that gave his company these rights.
His scam was in full swing in the second half of 2010s. Media giants raced to grab web-based content and swam to acquire titles for emerging markets online in what is known as the " streaming battles."
Federal prosecutors reduced the case to one count for securities fraud after Horwitz pleaded guilty last year. They described it as a Ponzi scheme. He used his new investment cash to promise payments with interest to investors earlier in the process.
He set up 1inMM Capital LLC in 2013 to supposedly buy rights to English-language movies, and then sell them to major media companies in Latin America. FBI Special Agent John Verrastro stated in an affidavit last January.
Prosecutors said that the scam began in the following year.
Verrastro stated that Horwitz targeted his victims with a single title. He would sometimes get $1 million from each victim, and update them on the progress of their cases later.
Verrastro stated that Horwitz later claimed that he had expanded his rights-flipping strategy into other foreign markets including Australia and New Zealand.
According to the affidavit, Horwitz, who had previously described himself as an entrepreneur sent a costly bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label blended Scottish whisky along with copies of his 2015 annual reports to investors.
Horwitz stated that no licensing deal was lost and that there were "strategic partnerships” with streaming giants.
In 2019, investors claimed Horwitz was in default of payments due after six- and 12-month terms. This led to a crisis. Horwitz replied by sending fake emails to HBO containing reasons for cash flow problems, as well as updated "payment cycles", according to the affidavit.
Horwitz was arrested after the scheme was stopped in April. His lawyers did not respond immediately to a request to clarify the sentence.
Verrastro stated that $160 million is owed to one investment group. In a press release, a law firm stated that it had filed a Class-action complaint against Horwitz in support of bilked investors.
According to court documents and prosecutors, Horwitz used his earnings to buy a Beverlywood home for $6 million.
Verrastro filed details about the home's amenities. It is located just a block away from Ranch Park Golf Course, and within walking distance to the Fox Studio Lot. The home includes a gym and a wine cellar.