Actor sentenced to 20 years for $650 million Hollywood Ponzi scheme

Sometimes I think about the damage that Bernie Madoff did to actors like John Malkovich, Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick, not to mention all the directors, producers and power players he scammed. Madoff was convicted in 2009 and there were surely a lot of career decisions made out of a need to recoup losses.

That’s what came to mind when I read about another investment scammer in Hollywood. I haven’t heard anything about actor Zachary Joseph Horwitz until now, but he stole over half a billion dollars from investors, claiming to sell licensing deals with Netflix and HBO. Horwitz was a struggling actor who went by the stage name Zach Avery before he cooked up this scheme. He lived large on investor’s money and weaved a web of lies, pulling in more people to fund his lifestyle. Horwitz was just sentenced to 20 years in federal prison and ordered to pay $230 million in restitution.

An LA actor who orchestrated an elaborate Ponzi scheme that raised $650 million in bogus licensing deals with HBO and Netflix was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison.

In addition to jail time, US District Judge Mark C. Scarsi on Monday ordered Zachary Joseph Horwitz, 35, to pay about $230 million in restitution to more than 250 investors who bankrolled his business venture 1inMM Capital.

Prosecutors said Horwitz would use loans from one group of investors to repay the others, while taking millions of dollars to pay for his opulent lifestyle.

Some of his splurges include $700,000 for a celebrity interior designer to remodel his $5.7 million home in Beverlywood, Calif.

Horwitz relied on his personal relationships and “word-of-mouth” referrals to secure investors and told them he had experience in the media content distribution industry.

“Defendant Zachary Horwitz portrayed himself as a Hollywood success story,” prosecutors said in a court affidavit. “He branded himself as an industry player, who, through his company… leveraged his relationships with online streaming platforms like HBO and Netflix to sell them foreign film distribution rights at a steady premium… But, as his victims came to learn, [Horwitz] was not a successful businessman or Hollywood insider. He just played one in real life.”

[From The NY Post]

How is it that someone can steal hundreds of millions of dollars systematically over several years and get 20 years while someone holding up a store out of desperation once gets life? That’s rhetorical, we know why that is.

Scammer stories are popular now, and there’s bound to be a documentary and/or dramatization of this con artist’s story. I wish we weren’t elevating these people but at the same time it’s fascinating that someone can be so awful and so convincing. Fingers crossed that Elizabeth Holmes is behind bars for the rest of her life. Her sentencing is set for September. I also hope that Anna Delvey gets deported.

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17 Responses to “Actor sentenced to 20 years for $650 million Hollywood Ponzi scheme”

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  1. bettyrose says:

    I stared watching Inventing Anna yesterday and it’s the perfect level of trashy. Loving it. But it doesn’t seem like she hurt very many people. Like no one was destroyed financially. Not like these other disgusting wastes of oxygen.

    • Lurker25 says:

      They were hurt financially. Read the original new York magazine article.

      • bettyrose says:

        I definitely will. Somehow I missed this story the first time around, but I’m fascinated by it now.

    • FeatherDuk says:

      I watched the whole thing, loved it, but also, it seems like she lied on a loan application and took money from a friend. It just wasn’t very clear at all.

      • bettyrose says:

        So far in the series, the only person who was really hurt financially was the friend Rachel, who had 60K charged to two credit cards, one being her employer’s charge card, but Rachel is also portrayed as a racist, social climbing privileged but not super rich idiot, so I’m not feeling super sympathetic to her either. Everyone else scammed is a hotel or bank, not a private individual. Oh, and racist Rachel (if she’s being portrayed accurately) published a best selling book in real life based on being scammed, so she’s living large from the experience. If she’s not actually a bad person, it sucks that Netflix did this to her, but if she is accurately portrayed, it’s kinda funny.

        ETA: Lena Dunham, no less, optioned Rachel’s book. The deal fell through and the internet has no details on why, but it supports Netflix’s portrayal of Rachel that she’s in cahoots with Lena Dunham.

    • Cee says:

      The actress playing Anna is amazing. I´ve seen her in so many things before but the way she even captured Anna’s accent is just perfect.

  2. Lurker25 says:

    “fascinating that someone can be so awful and so convincing”

    I’d like to see demo breakdown of the people he scammed. In my experience, wealthy white ppl are BLIND to anyone who presents as one of their own. That country club mentality is so pervasive. Throw in youth – by golly, kids these days know all about digital everything metaverse NFT Ethereum Blockchain, wow.
    The same rich white @$$hole who will scrutinize his Filipina nanny’s snack receipts, nickle and dime his Mexican gardener, look suspiciously at the black dude in the exec parking lot… THAT guy will throw half his bank account at the kid *who reminds him of himself as a young man* he just met at some BS awards luncheon or coked out bachelor party.

    You know I’m right.

  3. Dtab says:

    Okay…. here’s what I never get about these schemes. Surely you know that you are going to be caught at some stage right? It’s not a keep going forever deal…with that in mind, why aren’t they getting to a certain amount of money into an off-shore account and fleeing the country and living off the millions they robbed from people? Why wait around to go to Jail? (which they absolutely deserve for destroying peoples lives)

    • MerlinsMom1018 says:

      Arrogance? Smugly self centered???
      Got away with it once, let’s cross the Rubicon and go for broke?
      Who knows? 🤷

  4. Gracie says:

    It’s fascinating how someone can keep up with (albeit briefly) so many lies and somehow assume they won’t be held accountable. Also fascinated at how that amount of money is spent – cannot imagine.

  5. Carol says:

    How does this guy get 20 years in prison while the Tinder Swindler gets 15 months in prison? I understand these con-artists were tried in different countries but still….

  6. Jillybean says:

    He doesn’t dress like a guy who lives an opulent lifestyle lol

  7. RoSco says:

    Is it fair to call him an “actor” on a celeb gossip site? I’ve never seen that man before in my life but the scam aspect is interesting.