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Friday, March 1, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Broadway Fraudster Faces Cellblock Tango

MANHATTAN (CN) - When convincing Broadway producers that he could raise millions before the opening night of "Rebecca - The Musical," former Long Island businessman Mark Hotton really got into character.

The musical, named after a British author Daphne de Maurier's novel turned Oscar-winning film, had a $4.5 million budget shortfall with the 2012 fall season quickly approaching.

Hotton's admission that he spun nervous producers an elaborate tale of wealthy benefactors and African safaris landed the 48-year-old with a 34-month prison sentence on Friday.

Prosecutors said Hotton had assured producers that he had "soft circles on $3.18 million" in financing. He allegedly identified four interested foreign investors, and named South African investor "Paul Abrams" as a benefactor.

He allegedly fabricated email addresses and emails chains, and he billed $18,000 for the safari he supposedly took with the fictitious Mr. Abrams and Abrams' eldest son.

To explain why the investments never rolled in, Hotton "killed off" Abrams by claiming he had died of malaria while traveling with his family, according to a sentencing motion.

The announcement of the show's cancelation almost exactly two years ago suddenly left up to 130 theater artists out of a job, The New York Times reported.

A grand jury indicted Hotton weeks after the curtain dropped on the show, and prosecutors soon caught wind of an unrelated fraud that the ex-businessman perpetrated on a Connecticut real estate company.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara did not resist the opportunity for puns when Hotton copped to his crimes last year.

"With his guilty plea today, the curtain is finally closing on Mark Hotton's elaborately staged fraud," Bharara said in a July 2013 statement.

Facing a 20-year maximum sentence, Hotton's attorneys highlighted their client's ill-health and dependant family in sentencing briefs.

U.S. District Judge John Koetl's sentence this morning fell upon the lower end of the guideline range of his plea agreement.

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