Ex-stockbroker admits defrauding NY play 'Rebecca'

Ex-stockbroker admits scamming Broadway production of psychological thriller 'Rebecca'

Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- A former stockbroker who conned the Broadway producers of a failed production of "Rebecca" pleaded guilty to fraud charges on Monday but not without hinting at more drama, promising through his lawyer there is a "chapter yet to be written in this saga."

Mark Hotton entered the plea in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, admitting he had scammed the producers of tens of thousands of dollars with promises to raise $4 million to save the adaptation of the psychological thriller. He also admitted cheating a Connecticut real estate firm of hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last two years.

Given a chance to describe his crimes by Judge John G. Koeltl, the one-time stockbroker for Oppenheimer & Co. admitted that fees and expenses he received "were paid as a result of false pretenses by me."

The judge coaxed more from him through questions, including whether he knew what he was doing was wrong and illegal.

"Yes," Hotten said.

Sentencing was set for Nov. 1, when Hotton, 47, is likely to get up to 3 1/2 years in prison, according to the terms of a plea agreement he signed with federal prosecutors a couple of weeks ago. Two counts of wire fraud otherwise carry a potential of up to 40 years in prison.

Hotton, of West Islip, east of New York City, also agreed to forfeit $500,000 and to make restitution payments of $500,000.

Hotton's lawyer, Ira London, said outside court: "Mr. Hotton has asked me to say there is a chapter yet to be written in this saga." London declined to say more about the statement other than: "When it will be written you will know."

In a statement, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara made his own tribute to Broadway, saying "the curtain is finally closing on Mark Hotton's elaborately staged fraud."

"Though his lies and deceits were the stuff of fiction, they caused real harm to his victims, and he now faces real consequences as a result — the prospect of jail," the prosecutor added.

Prosecutors said Hotton enticed Broadway producers with talk of fictitious overseas investors and the prospect of a last-minute $1.1 million loan. They said producers were counting on Hotton's $4 million in January 2012 to begin performances of "Rebecca," which cost between $12 million and $14 million.

But Hotton's investors, including one named Paul Abrams, weren't real, the government said. Hotton orchestrated a false illness, hospitalization and death of Abrams in July 2012 as he strung the producers along, causing them to pay him and the companies he controlled more than $35,000, the government said.

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Associated Press writer Tom Hays contributed to this story.

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