However, Horwitz’s business was as much an illusion as the special effects in his latest film, federal investigators say.
In fact, Horwitz never had any relationship with Netflix or HBO, according to a lawsuit filed this week by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, instead fabricating documents and lying to investors while abusing millions to pay for his luxury style.
The SEC on Tuesday froze the assets of Horwitz and his firm, 1inMM Capital, and accused him of violating the anti-fraud statutes. He was arrested by the FBI Tuesday morning at his mansion in the Beverlywood neighborhood, the Los Angeles Times reported, and charged with wire fraud.
“We claim that Horwitz promised extremely high returns and made them seem plausible by invoking the names of two well-known entertainment companies and producing documents,” Michele Wein Layne, director of the SEC’s Los Angeles Regional Office, said in a press release.
Horwitz’s lawyer, Anthony Pacheco, did not immediately respond to a message from The Washington Post early Wednesday. In a video hearing from Los Angeles Jail Tuesday, Horwitz briefly told a judge he understood the charges he faced, the Times reported.
As an actor, Horwitz appeared under the screen name Zach Avery and collected 15 points since 2009 according to IMDb. He got some minor roles in big budget movies – like his uncredited role as an SS doctor in Brad Pitt’s 2014 film “Fury” – and a few major parts in indie films, such as the sci-fi film “Curvature” from 2017, which Variety panned . as a “derived metaphysical thriller.”
But if his career on screen did not start, Horwitz seemed to make big moves in the film distribution game. From around 2014, the SEC said, the actor began luring investors to 1inMM Capital by promising a quick return of 35 to 45 percent.
His pitch was simple: Investors wanted to hand over money he could use to buy distribution rights to movies. Netflix or HBO would then pay him to license the movies, and within a year or six months, he could return the profits to his backers.
As Horwitz consistently hit its targets and allegedly shared documents from HBO and Netflix with its investors, the company appeared to be solid, investigators said. Some investors turned over millions. “I thought if HBO was involved, my investment would be safe,” one investor told the SEC.
In fact, there were no distribution rights, and Horwitz never sold any movies to Netflix or HBO, federal investigators said. Instead, he used the new money that came in to pay old investors. Between 2014 and 2019, he raised more than $ 690 million, the SEC said.
Meanwhile, Horwitz lived big. Using money from his investors, he chartered jets, dropped more than $ 100,000 on trips to Las Vegas, got a luxury watch service subscription and bought high-end cars, the SEC said. The house was his crown jewel – a six-bedroom property with a pool and adorned with designer furniture, according to a Zillow list shared by the Times.
In late 2019, however, the scheme began to collapse, investigators said. When Horwitz was unable to pay investors, he claimed to keep them quiet through 2020, claiming that HBO had not paid for a deal and suggested he was planning to sue the TV giant. He marketed his house for $ 6.5 million.
As recently as last month, the SEC said, he told an investor that he might need them to come in to help pay attorneys’ fees to recover the money they had expected from HBO.
But there was never an agreement with HBO or Netflix, federal investigators said. Since 2019, Horwitz has reportedly missed 160 payments to investors, including to a Chicago-based firm that owes $ 160 million in capital, the Times reported; in all, he owes about $ 227 million to investors, excluding interest, according to the Times.
On Tuesday, prosecutors requested that Horwitz be detained, noting that millions of dollars are not being considered.
“The odds that the defendant has some of the money that has been squandered away are quite high,” U.S. Assistant Attorney Alexander Schwab said in a video hearing, the Times reported.
A judge chose to release him on a $ 1 million secured bond, according to the Times. The SEC is scheduled for a court hearing later this month to determine if the agency can keep its assets frozen.