July 29, 2013 4:21pm PT by Eriq Gardner
'Rebecca' Fraud Case: New York Man Admits Guilt
Mark Hotton has pled guilty to wire fraud in connection with defrauding producers of Broadway's canceled Rebecca: The Musical. As a result, he's looking at about three years in prison thanks to a plea arrangement with prosecutors.
Hotton, a former New York stockbroker, was charged last year in what prosecutors called at the time a "stranger than fiction" fraud.
Producers led by Broadway veteran Ben Sprecher planned a $12 million stage production of Rebecca, most famously adapted by Alfred Hitchcock in an Oscar-winning film, but came up $4.5 million short. Hotton represented that he had overseas investors waiting in the wings, and according to the indictment created subterfuge to dupe the producers into giving him some $60,000 in fees and commissions as well as paying for an $18,000 safari trip.
In court on Monday, Hotton reportedly told the judge, "Some of the fees and expenses I received to raise money for the musical Rebecca were paid as a result of false pretenses by me.”
Until he was caught, Hotton went to great lengths to hide what he was doing.
For example, the indictment cited phony e-mail addresses and fabricated conversations with phantom investors. It was enough to allow Broadway producers to have confidence in spending $6 million in money from their real investors, which led to debt and the need to shut down the Rebecca production in September when Hotton told producers that one of his imaginary investors had died of malaria.
By making a plea deal, Hotton heads off the possibility of serving some 40 years on two separate wire fraud counts. Instead, prosecutors will recommend he get 33 to 41 months in prison and forfeit $500,000. Sentencing has been scheduled for Nov. 1.
Hotton is still facing a lawsuit brought by the show's producers.
Meanwhile, Sprecher recently told Playbill.com that he still hopes to revive Rebecca for next year.