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Actor Zach Avery Pleads Guilty To $650 Million Licensing Fraud

By Gary Symons

TLL Editor in Chief

The Hollywood actor Zachary Horwitz—better known by his stage name Zach Avery—faces decades behind bars after admitting his role in a $650 million Ponzi scheme.

Horwitz was charged in May this year on allegations he defrauded multiple high worth investors in what has been described by authorities as a phony licensing scheme. This week, as part of a plea deal that dropped other charges such as wire fraud and identity theft, Horwitz admitted to duping investors into giving him $650 million.

In court this week Horwitz sat quietly as a prosecutor read through an agreed-upon statement of facts. It outlined how Horwitz promised the investment funds would be used to buy regional distribution rights for TV and film projects, which would in turn be licensed to streaming platforms like Netflix and HBO Max. In a classic example of how Ponzi schemes work, Horwitz used some of the money to pay out some early investors, but other funds were used to pay for a lavish Hollywood lifestyle and to keep the scam going.

Among many other purchases, Horwitz admitted to using the stolen funds to buy a luxury home in the Beverlywood neighborhood of Los Angeles, with a swimming pool, home gym and a private screening room.

Horwitz admitted he swindled at least five investors out of $230 million, and the plea agreement included examples of how the scam worked. For example, Horwitz told authorities he convinced an Illinois investor into sending him more than $1.4 million in December 2018. He promised that investor the money would be used to license the international distribution rights to Active Measures, a documentary about the alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

As is common with Ponzi schemes, at some point the investment scam ran out of steam, and Horwitz began defaulting on payments to his investors around the end of 2019. At that point, Horwitz admits he began fabricating emails that purported to be from major streaming companies, and had addressed like @netflix.com and @hbo.com. For a short time investors were lulled into thinking their money was safely invested, and payment would come as the licensing deals were finally closed.

Of course, those licensing deals didn’t exist, and over time investors realized the funds were never coming. At that point, some of the investors contacted police.

Horwitz is still listed on IMDB under the name Zach Avary as a minor actor primarily known for his work on Last Moment of Clarity (2020), The White Crow (2018) and Farming (2018). He played small parts in several other films, including the bit part of a German SS medic in the World War II drama Fury.  Those two earlier films were released at the same time Horwitz was running his convoluted licensing scheme. According to evidence presented in court, Horwitz was a better actor off-screen, as he convinced investor that his company, 1inMM Capital, had a track record in licensing films that allowed him to offer them rates of return of between 25 to 40 per cent.

The maximum sentence for this type of fraud is 20 years, and in court the presiding judge Mark Scarsi told Horwitz that this type of offense would be guaranteed to end in a prison term.

“I do understand that, your honor,” said Horwitz, who remains free on bail until sentencing.

The actor’s defense lawyer, Ryan Hedges, later told a Rolling Stone reporter that Horwitz is deeply sorry for his actions.

“Mr. Horwitz has accepted responsibility for his actions, and today’s plea is an important step in that process of accepting responsibility,” Hedges said.


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