Avery, whose legal name is Zachary J. Horwitz, collected hundreds of millions in loans he falsely told investors would be used to secure film distribution rights.
Zachary J. Horwitz, an actor who goes by the stage name Zach Avery, has been formally sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for a massive Ponzi scheme prosecutors say raised at least $650 million from more than 200 investors in sham film licensing deals.
According to the Associated Press, Avery, 35, was ordered to pay back more than $230.3 million.
Avery was arrested back in April in Los Angeles, and he later pleaded guilty to a federal charge of securities fraud in October
Prosecutors had alleged that, from 2014-2019, Avery collected hundreds of millions in loans for his film company, 1inMM Capital LLC. He told his investors, which included three of Avery’s 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. In actuality, prosecutors argued that Avery used some of the money to repay investors who donated funds earlier, while supporting his lifestyle that included buying a $6 million home.
The United States Securities and Exchange Commission announced in April through a press release that they obtained “an asset freeze and other emergency relief” against Avery and his company in connection to the Ponzi scheme. The complaint alleged the actor “showed investors fabricated agreements and emails regarding the purported deals with HBO and Netflix.”
The SEC complaint stated neither Avery nor his company had ever done business with HBO and Netflix.
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,” Michele Wein Layne, Director of the SEC’s Los Angeles Regional Office, said in a statement at the time. “We obtained an asset freeze on an emergency basis to secure for the benefit of investors what remains of the money raised by Horwitz.”
Avery has appeared in a number of a small, low-budget films, including Last Moment of Clarity, The White Crow, Trespassers, and The Devil Below. He’s also credited with a small part in the Brad Pitt-fronted Fury.