Mark Hotton, a New York businessman was charged on Monday for defrauding the Broadway musical production “Rebecca” by creating a web of lies supported by fictional characters. In a statement, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said the businessman had “faked lives, faked companies and even staged a fake death, pretending that one imaginary investor had suddenly died of malaria.” Bharara said the fraud perpetrated was “stranger-than-fiction” starring four “deep-pocketed phantoms,” investors who were entirely fictional and products of Hotton’s imagination.
Earlier this year, the Broadway play was about $5 million short of funding, when Hotton appeared on the scene and promised the producers of the show that he would raise the cash and bail out the show in exchange of fees and commissions. While Hotton received more than $60,000 in commissions and fees, Hotton never delivered the promised cash to the producers of the show.
Hotton, who was charged with two counts of wire fraud was found to have fabricated email addresses and created investor websites to con the producers of the play. Bharara said that when the producers grew concerned, Hotton “orchestrated the false illness, hospitalization and untimely ‘death’” of one of the imaginary investors. Following this, Hotton claimed to have flown to London in August to meet with the executor of the dead investor’s estate, but prosecutors say Hotton never left USA.
Hotton continued his drama by promising to obtain a $1.1 million loan from a real estate company by putting up his own property as collateral. The real estate company was found to be a fictional entity.
FBI Acting Assistant Director-in-Charge Mary E. Galligan said in a statement, “In his alleged scheme to defraud investors, Mark Hotton wrote, directed and starred in the work of fiction he took to Broadway …. A convincing portrayal on stage can earn you a Tony. A convincing act that fleeces a production’s backers can earn you a prison term.”