Episode 31: Hollywood Actor Runs $650 Million Ponzi Scheme (2021)
2:42PM Jan 18, 2023
Welcome to this curious media. This is that's a crime. I'm Jason Connell.
And I'm Sal Rodriguez.
All right, Sal. We are back for another crime.
The crimes never end.
They never end so it keeps coming. I think there's going to be like a law. No more craps.
I feel like I'm missing out by leading such a good boring, regular law abiding life. You know, you're so
boring. So yeah.
Just collect your toys and be a good boy.
How better would it be if we did a show on one of our own crimes?
That'd be a first that could be funny that we'll get some press.
That's gonna get us some press. Oh, let's do it. Well, Sal, today we are breaking down the True Crime Story of the Hollywood actor runs $650 million Ponzi scheme in 2021. That that's a lot is a ton of money. Yeah. Wow, I came across this and thought, we have to discuss this a, we know the LA Hollywood landscape so very well. And we potentially could have run into or know of this Hollywood actor, but so much to talk about. But before we do so before we say another word. How about a word from our sponsor? Let's do it. Support for that's a crime is brought to you by manscaped. Who is the best and men's below the waist grooming and offers precision engineered tools for your family jewels? Join over 4 million men worldwide who trust manscaped. And with this exclusive offer, you'll get
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I'm still on board with it. I'm still you know, okay. So people are like, hey, they are they still into it? Yes, you have into the product. Or now
this crime is brought to you by now. This is a story of Zachary Joseph Horowitz, an actor who goes by the stage name, Zack Avery. And he has appeared in a number of small low budget film sell, including last moment of clarity. Think about that. Give that a long thought. The white crow trespassers, and the devil below. He also had a small part as an SS medic in the action war drama fury in 2014, which starred Brad Pitt. I really enjoyed that movie. Very well done. Cast was fantastic. Brad Pitt's fantastic, Sal, have you seen that movie?
No, I have not seen any of these films, unfortunately. But I will tell you this. When I first saw the picture of this actor, I have absolutely seen him before because he has a distinct look. He's not like an average Joe looking. He has a very desirable person or in something. That's what I don't know. I'm looking at his credits. And I don't think I've seen any of those. So maybe I used to know him in person. I used to work out a few gyms in the San Fernando Valley that would have lots of actors in and out. I've met a few high profile people throughout the years. It's entirely possible. Maybe I chatted with him at the gym or knew him from the gym, but his face when as soon as I saw it, I said I've seen this guy before.
Yeah, I didn't recognize him from fury, because it was a bit part as a medic, but he did look distinct. He does stand out. You're absolutely right. It's not like oh, I'm an actor, and his eyes His presence. But you know, there's so many of these people in LA, it's a very transient place, and people come and they go and whatever. But this is such an amazing scheme. I mean, Ponzi schemes in general, we hear about all the time made off maybe being the biggest one ever.
I just read today that made off sister and brother in law, murder suicide. I hate to hate that. No, but
this, this might be another episode of that's a crime. That's a deeper thing. There are no deaths in this one that we know of. But just the sheer amount. I mean, it could be $1 million. And I'm in awe right, but this is $650 million. Now. When 35 year old father of two Horowitz was in an acting class auditioning or onset sale, he was busy collecting hundreds of millions of dollars in a lucrative Ponzi scheme. Now before we go any further, so why don't we give just a basic definition of the term Ponzi scheme?
That's good, because we hear that term a lot. But I think all of us could get a refresher on what that exactly means. Some
people might think it's a Fonzie scheme, and Winkler, for a Ponzi scheme, or a Ponzi scheme.
A Ponzi scheme is a form of fraud that learns investors and pays profits to earlier investors with funds from more recent investors. Now, the scheme leads victims to believe that profits are coming from legitimate business activity. And they remain unaware that other investors are the source of funds. Yeah, interesting.
And if done right, and I forget how long made offs went on because I've definitely heard this whole podcast that broke it down. This was many years ago. It's like a six part it was fascinating. But if you do it right, if that's your thing is doing Ponzi schemes. It takes In long time to solve, you keep the people happy. They're making a kickback. It just kind of perpetuates itself be like a circle, but it is just a house of cards out. It's self fulfilling prophecy until, well, greed can set in obviously greed is set in or just missteps or maybe you have an investor who's like, hey, you know what I want out or what's going on are hot words the reports that this doesn't add up, you get one or two people poking around, it starts to fall in now, unfortunately, we don't have the straw that broke the camel's back. We don't know like this guy came and then got all the other investment we don't know we just know this basic facts. There's new information as of this month, and that's what brought it on my radar. But we only can share what we have sell. And unfortunately, we don't have all the answers now since you know Horowitz or Avery, you should probably get the better story. So
if ever run into at the gym again. Oh, Zack, Listen,
man, I want to cover this on that sucker.
Is that can you come onto our show? Can
you come on? We'd love to have you on we love having you. As a documentary producer and director. I will say that one of the hardest things about filmmaking is fundraising. It may be the hardest, like I understand everything else. I loved it, you know in the trenches and the creativity and then all the way to distribution. But the fundraisings but Horowitz was a master. And it's just a shame that he wasn't actually funding movies, but rather stealing money from people and living extravagantly, because with somebody like this that has the power of fundraising, they could have done a lot of good. It's not an easy thing to do.
And not only the power, yes, the ability Yes. But that sphere of influence, as they call it. Yes. In order to gather up $650 million. You got to know some people with money, so he obviously knew plenty of people with money. I need to be friends with more people with money. I just found out two of my friends might be rich. I just found this out. I'm not one of them. So you're not crypto rich? Newsflash.
Well, also, he must be a good actor, to some degree, to put this on to spin plates and talk people into following him. But here's another sad thing besides people getting taken advantage of. But this is exactly the type of thing that gives Hollywood and filmmaking in general a bad name and becomes taboo for investors. So it's harder to get investors because they're going to hear about this story and thing. Come on. No, I know that guy. He's doing Ponzi schemes. No one gets rich in Hollywood. So it just makes it worse for all of us. Legitimate people. Yeah, trying to make movies.
It doesn't legitimize the landscape it gives people pause. Yeah,
exactly. Well, I don't know, like I said earlier how Horowitz was ultimately caught. But he was arrested in Los Angeles, California on April 5 2021. Prosecutors allege that from 2014 to 2019, he collected hundreds of millions of dollars in loans for his film company, one in M M. And Sal, that's gonna spell it out for us.
That's a numeral one, I N, capital M, capital M. Capital, LLC.
I have no idea what one Nmm is, it's kind of clunky. Think you want to be something more just like oh, yeah, digestible, easy to say. But he told his 200 investors that made up that sum, which included three of Horwitz, closest friends and family members, the money would be used to purchase film distribution rights to movies that would be licensed to the likes of Netflix, and HBO.
It sounds legitimate, you know why? Legit? Because when I spend a lot of time on Netflix, there's a lot of foreign films on there. So somebody comes along and goes, Hey, I deal with this. You I'd be like, Oh, really? Wow. Yeah, Netflix does have a lot of foreign films make sense?
Yeah. And I know a lot about this from my own documentaries, I started to glance some deals with Netflix. So as I got a couple of docks, on the streaming platforms, I was able to kind of go back to the film festival group that we had united Film Festival, and talk to other filmmakers and say, hey, I can be your sales agent and help you close a deal here. Because some of these operations if it's not Netflix, there's other distributors like Gravatars, and all these other ones that work. They're smaller, and they also have the relationships, but they're looking to fill their pipeline constantly, right? So I had like 10 movies. But then I started rapping about 100 movies, because it's hard for a filmmaker just to get on a platform and close the deal. They don't want to deal with you one off filmmaker for a small film, like Horowitz has been in. So it was better power and numbers. And I would go and meet with the sub distributors and say, Hey, I've got a few movies that you like, and then look at these other 20 and then they might pick and choose and get a few distribution deals that way. So I just know how challenging it is on that side of the content creator trying to get distribution. He's saying, Hey, I'm going to come here and swing a big axe. I'm going to I have a lot of money. And I'm going to go scoop up some things that some of these film markets like in Santa Monica, they have a huge film market every year annual buyers come in. And so he's saying I'll go on a purchase some things will get distribution, and it can work. It's a great idea when you have that type of cash flow that bank roll. So I wonder if he ever had good intentions. And then it was just like, that deal didn't work out. And that wasn't as lucrative and he was like, Hey, I'm pretty good at fundraising. We didn't hear from him. I know. He said he was sorry. And he got out of control. That's what I read, like, okay, but I'd like to know where it started. And then was it always this malicious Ponzi scheme, or he got it over his skis, and then he was living a life that was just a fraud?
I don't know if I would consider a Ponzi scheme inherently evil, assuming people will get their money back at some point, right? If you give me money, I run it through my Ponzi scheme, but then later on, I give you a return. Well, then officially no harm, no foul, right. The problem is, is when you don't get your money back,
when you start defaulting on those, it's like, oh, well, well, in actuality, Prosecutors argued that Horowitz use some of the money to repay investors, like to your point who donated funds earlier. So yeah, first in first out, while supporting his lifestyle that included buying a $6 million home so not that should not be something that he's doing. Pay yourself a salary. Don't go get a $6 million home if you have a $6 million home. It's reminds me of a crime from the past the coin thief, Selim Cara, yes. It's like what else have you got? You got a $6 million home? Why, you know, I have that Bentley, and I have it what point is it? That's what happens to people? We cross over that line? Everything's in question. Well, I kinda you know, I've raised this my justification, you've moved the goalposts are over here. What's his family thinking? Is he lying to them too?
Well, his family's probably thinking, Wow, he's really making in Hollywood. Yeah, these roles he's having he was at a movie with Brad Pitt and must pay pretty well wasn't a movie that Brad Pitt. Yeah, yeah, I believe in keeping a low profile. It's one of those things where it Yes, like, what if I have money? Well, if I found money, no one would know. That's pretty much it.
Yeah. If you found DB Cooper's money, I would not even know you wouldn't even tell me, you might
know, because I will start wearing some real sexy threads.
Yeah. That's your background start changing.
Figures get more expensive and larger.
Well, not only was he living in a house of cards, so he was robbing Peter to pay Paul. And stealing from family and friends. That right there tells you a lot about the character of the guy. Yeah, okay. No, no, mom, dad or whoever, sis brother, you know, his good friends? Why would he make them a part of it now, like you said, hey, if he's taking money from them, and they're making a return, but it's not actually anything, it's still a Ponzi scheme. It's still not legal. But you're right. Some people probably are there any people have his 200 That made a profit, we don't know. We don't know, I'm assuming
most have it, or at least made their money back
or at least made their money back. Well, also in April of 2021, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, the SEC obtained an asset freeze and other emergency relief against Horowitz and his company in connection to the Ponzi scheme. The SEC also stated that neither horts nor his company had ever done business with Netflix and HBO. So already misrepresenting yourself and tricking people into things that aren't true showing them which we're going to talk about a second false documents. This becomes even if you are paying them, the whole thing is a fraud.
No, but you know what it reminds me of our previous crime that we talked about, which was okay, the guy who told his family that he was gonna go work for SpaceX, oh, my made up the whole thing. And then when they found out he murdered them off, right, I don't want to get dark. But this is that these people, I mean, man, people bring up such elaborate lies. These are like twisted webs that people create for themselves
and Horowitz his own mind. He's like, even in business with Netflix, HBO, he's probably thinking, I have an account with Netflix and HBO Max. But he's also the type of guy that would borrow someone's log and and not even buy a subscription. So I don't know man, but we have something here from Michelle Wien lane, Director of SEC, Los Angeles Regional Office, and she stated what cell
we allege that Horowitz promised extremely high returns, and made them seem plausible. By invoking the names of two well known entertainment companies and fabricating documents, see fabricating
documents right there. If I'm an investor, and I'm going to the SEC or the prosecutors, whomever, saying, hey, there's documentation here that I'm a part owner of these movies, these properties, and we have distribution deals in place with HBO and Netflix. I mean, even if you aren't getting some money, you feel so stupid use right even if you've made a little bit of a return, you have nothing. You really have absolutely nothing but this guy's word who just takes money from me by So, not a good thing, I would be livid. I hope that most people got some money back. But go ahead and say what else mysoline had to say.
We obtained an asset freeze on an emergency basis to secure for the benefit of investors, what remains at the money raised by Horowitz
and you go they locked down those assets very quickly. So some people could get paid back,
which is funny that he founded an LLC thinking that he's going to be protected, right? Yeah, no, an LLC doesn't protect you and your Ponzi scheme.
Oh, hang on a second. Who was my attorney? Well, what the heck? Well, this was pretty much an open and shut case as the paper trail all led to Horowitz and his company, which also has me wondering, what was he thinking sell again, sometimes, and we've done enough crimes and see what happens in the world. You probably just start tricking yourself. This is going well, I got those 100 investors are happy. These are waiting for a payout. I gotta find more money. You did probably start believing the lie.
Yeah. I would like to see how all the payouts went, right. So you had two other people giving you money, but then how many of them got money back? And then meanwhile, the SEC froze? Are they able to give some back when all is said and done? I really want to know what people lost and what some were able to save at the end?
Right? Well, here's what we do now. And October of 2021, Horowitz pleaded guilty to a federal charge of securities fraud. And on Monday, February 14 2022, very recent, he was formally sentenced to 20 years in federal prison and ordered to pay back more than $230.3 million.
Happy Valentine's Day.
Well, okay, so do you think then he's ordered to that doesn't mean he's going to they seize the assets and the government? Yeah.
They didn't say how much they seized. That was in his account. I doubt it was 650 million. Some of that money has been spent somewhat back to people's, we've talked about, but he has to pay back 230.3. What was in the account? Do they take $6 million house, you have a spouse and two kids and listen, I feel bad for the family man, and also the family members who took advantage of but yeah, I'd love to know more. These are the questions that I have. But we're nothing new yet. But it's a very recent case going off to prison. Wow. 20 year so 35 year old man thinks he gets out early. How's that work?
I don't think he'll serve 20 years. I think maybe it'll serve about maybe 1010 years. I serve about about 10 years and
45 years old. Do you think he has any money stowed away somewhere? offshore?
This is what we always get up. Joe? Is it worth it? Is it worth?
Question? Okay, two kids and a spouse, you're going to be away for 10 years plus
10 years in prison to let's say maybe how you got 50 million over here somewhere? Okay, let's say $50 million 50 million when you come out in 10 years? I don't know. That's a long time. Longtime, longtime. I'll do one year for every million. How
about the change as a person and your kids think 10 years? Are they going to be in life?
Actually, I'll take that away. I'll do one year for every 5 million as well. Okay,
that's your that's your bar. That's what I do. Okay. So it's safe to say that crime doesn't pay in Horowitz. Avery should have kept his day job. As an actor. That's funny. As an actor, he was really good at it. You know? Yeah. You know how it is it speak to that side of it. I mean, it's a grind, right? I'm not an actor. I don't have that background. But you've done lots of acting.
Yeah, I've been on a number of auditions. I. Geez. I've probably been. Well, I've been in over 50 commercials and been in over 50 commercials now. I must have been on 200 auditions. If I were to add up all the auditions, I've probably been on 250 300 auditions. It's amazing. Yeah, it is a grind. Because you don't know what it's like having a job interview for those of you who Yeah, who don't know what it's like, imagine having a job interview every day or having a job interview three days a week for 10 years. You know, that's, that's what it's like. In fact, one of my actress friends says that, as an actor, you just have to love auditioning, you have to love. I don't love auditioning. Well forget it. I could see the lawyer and the lawyer. This guy's a struggling actor. He's not a big name. He's not an A Lister. And all of a sudden, he figures out a way to earn some money. And then he goes nuts with it. So I can sympathize. But at the same time, yeah, risking your friends and family's money. Not good.
It's really a shame because obviously this guy's bright. He's able to come up with a plan, execute that plan, talk to people when people over it's really a shame. Like I said earlier that it wasn't for the good. He didn't get aligned with the right producers, right. I would have loved to met this guy when I was solely doing documentaries and fundraising for potential narratives as well. This has been like my greatest partner, this skill set who just thrives in fundraising, but it's a shame and he got what he has come in to him. I hope that people got some of that $230.3 million back. And let's hope that is not a black guy on Hollywood for years to come.
I will say this I think he could possibly be back in Hollywood because let's not forget one of Hollywood's favorite character actors today, Danny Trejo, I think, was in prison for murder at one point. So if we can forgive Danny Trejo and give him some acting roles, we can forgive Avery and maybe offer him some acting roles and 1015 years.
We'll have him on the podcasts when he gets out. He can be guest host. Yeah. Well, so that covers it. The Hollywood actor runs $650 million Ponzi scheme and 2021. And the books anything else to add?
Ah, no, no, but I definitely need to make more friends of people with money. I do need to do that. Well, you have to rich friends all the sudden. So I just I just found out I just looked at the properties of two friends. And I think they might be rich. I'm not gonna say anything. That's weird. But I'm thinking I wonder if they're rich.
It doesn't matter. So live a great life. What do you really need? And that's what I mean? Like, I need a $6 million home. What do you really need? What I
just like having family. I like having time. Time is key. Like you're able to
work on your endeavors, your creativities if you have a family like courts does spend time with that. Yeah, chasing something that doesn't matter only gets you in prison, especially when you pull these shortcuts and screw people over. So
I think the only thing people would ever notice with me if I ever came into a bunch of money is not that I would have a bunch of extravagant stuff. But they'd be like to Sally even work like they would just see that I'm not working. That's all. I don't need to have a bunch of stuff. I just like to sleep in that. I'll be very happy doing that. Like a cat. Yeah, yeah. naps during the day. A lot of fun, Sal and until the next crime, my friend. Yeah, I'll be there. So unlock your confidence and always use the right tools for the job with manscaped get 20% off and free shipping with the code. That's a firstname.lastname@example.org
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