Alleged Broadway fraud involved bogus investors and a faked death

The producers of “Rebecca: The Musical” filed a $100 million fraud lawsuit against a backer who reportedly sabotaged the production

Truth was much, much stranger than fiction for the producers trying to mount a Broadway production based on the novel “Rebecca,” according to a $100 million fraud lawsuit they filed Friday.

While trying to assemble funding for “Rebecca”—a musical version of the 1938 mystery novel by Daphne du Maurier—producers Ben Sprecher and Louise Forlenza were introduced to Mark Hotton, a Long Island stockbroker who agreed to help them find investors. Within several months, Hotton returned with the names of four overseas investors, each of whom pledged to contribute between $500,000 and $2 million to the production.

According to the producers’ suit, “Hotton made up the names, dates of birth, home addresses, email addresses, telephone numbers and signatures of the purported investors,” even going to far as to create websites associated with the fictitious contributors.

Just after the musical’s funding deadline, however, Hotton allegedly told the producers that the largest investor, “Paul Abrams,” had died of malaria, and that the other investors were withdrawing their funds as a result.

And the story doesn’t end there: Several months after the four fictional investors had dropped out of the production, Sprecher and Forlenza say they found another (real) investor interested in pledging $2,250,000 to the musical. Within weeks, however, the angel investor withdrew from the agreement, after receiving a series of emails from a fictional sender who warned him that the musical was in trouble.

In these emails, the anonymous individual—Hotton, according to the lawsuit—wrote that “with [the] prospect of fraud, an ongoing money shortage, a bad public perception, anemic ticket sales, and a rabid press corps, the only good reason to invest in rebecca [sic] would be for a tax-write-off and a desire to be dragged intoa [sic] fraud trial.”

As a result of the alleged scam, “Rebecca” has been postponed indefinitely. If the musical does not open, Sprecher and Forlenza’s company will be liable for $7 million.

Last week, investigators arrested Hotton and his wife Sherri Hotton, on charges of wire fraud and money laundering. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, which has been investigating Hotton since 2009, reports that the stockbroker has been the subject of 12 complaints and arbitration cases.

Read more at Thomson Reuters.

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Alanna Byrne

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