Horwitz’s business, though, was as much an illusion as the special effects in his latest movie, federal investigators say.
In fact, Horwitz never had any relationship with Netflix or HBO, according to a complaint filed this week by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and instead fabricated documents and lied to investors while misappropriating millions to pay for his luxury lifestyle.
The SEC on Tuesday froze the assets of Horwitz and his company, 1inMM Capital, and accused him of violating anti-fraud statutes. He was arrested by the FBI on Tuesday morning at his mansion in the Beverlywood neighborhood, the Los Angeles Times reported, and charged with wire fraud.
“We allege that Horwitz promised extremely high returns and made them seem plausible by invoking the names of two well-known entertainment companies and fabricating documents,” said Michele Wein Layne, director of the SEC’s Los Angeles Regional Office, in a news release.
Horwitz’s attorney, Anthony Pacheco, did not immediately respond to a message from The Washington Post early on Wednesday. In a video hearing from Los Angeles jail on Tuesday, Horwitz briefly told a judge that he understood the charges he faced, the Times reported.
As an actor, Horwitz appeared under the screen name Zach Avery and racked up 15 credits since 2009, according to IMDb. He earned some minor roles in big budget films — like his uncredited part as an SS medic in Brad Pitt’s 2014 film “Fury” — and a few bigger parts in indie movies, like the 2017 sci-fi film “Curvature,” which Variety panned as a “derivative metaphysical thriller.”
But if his on-screen career wasn’t taking off, Horwitz seemed to be making major moves in the film distribution game. Starting around 2014, the SEC said, the actor began luring investors to 1inMM Capital by promising swift returns of 35 to 45 percent.
His pitch was simple: Investors would hand over money that he could use to buy distribution rights to movies. Netflix or HBO would then pay him to license the films, and within a year or six months, he could return the profits to his backers.
As Horwitz consistently hit his targets and shared documents supposedly from HBO and Netflix with his investors, the business seemed rock solid, investigators said. Some investors turned over millions. “I believed that if HBO was involved, my investment was safe,” one investor told the SEC.
Actually, there were no distribution rights, and Horwitz never sold any movies to Netflix or HBO, federal investigators said. Instead, he used the new money coming in to pay off old investors. Between 2014 and 2019, he raised more than $690 million, the SEC said.
Meanwhile, Horwitz was living large. Using money from his investors, he chartered jets, dropped more than $100,000 on trips to Las Vegas, got a subscription luxury watch service, and bought high-end cars, the SEC said. The house was his crowning jewel — a six-bedroom estate with a pool and decked out with designer furniture, according to a Zillow listing shared by the Times.
By late 2019, though, the scheme started to collapse, investigators said. Unable to pay off investors, Horwitz allegedly scrambled to keep them appeased throughout 2020 by claiming that HBO had failed to pay for an agreed deal and suggesting he was planning to sue the TV giant. He put his house on the market for $6.5 million.
As recently as last month, the SEC said, he told one investor he might need them to pitch in to help pay for attorneys’ fees to recoup the money they had expected from HBO.
But there was never a deal with HBO or Netflix, federal investigators said. Since 2019, Horwitz has allegedly missed 160 payments to investors, including to one firm in Chicago that’s owed $160 million in principal, the Times reported; in all he owes roughly $227 million to investors, not including interest, according to the Times.
On Tuesday, prosecutors asked to keep Horwitz in custody, noting that millions of dollars are unaccounted for.
“The odds that the defendant has some of that money squirreled away are quite high,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexander Schwab said in a video hearing, the Times reported.
A judge elected to release him on a $1 million secured bond, according to the Times. The SEC has scheduled a court hearing later this month to determine whether the agency can keep his assets frozen.