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New York man pleads guilty to 'Rebecca' Broadway scam

By Erin Geiger Smith

(Reuters) - In a case prosecutors called "stranger than fiction," a former New York businessman pleaded guilty on Monday to defrauding the producers of Broadway production "Rebecca - The Musical" by creating an elaborate scheme involving fake overseas investors.

Mark Hotton, 46, pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud and agreed to forfeit $500,000 and to pay an additional $500,000 to the victims of his schemes.

The guilty plea included a second scheme in which he sought to defraud a Connecticut-based real estate company.

Hotton faces 20 years in prison for each count of wire fraud and is scheduled to be sentenced on November 1 by U.S. District Judge John Koeltl in Manhattan.

Hotton's attorney, Ira London, was not immediately available for comment.

"Though his lies and deceits were the stuff of fiction, they caused real harm to his victims," Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement.

Hotton was indicted in November.

A dark, gothic thriller based on a 1938 Daphne du Maurier novel, "Rebecca" had been slated to make its Broadway debut in the fall of 2012 but was postponed because of a shortfall in financing and scandal.

The proposed budget for the show was between $12 million and $14 million.

When the producers found themselves $4 million short, they entered into an agreement in February 2012 with a company controlled by Hotton.

He was to raise money in return for a $7,500 fee and an 8 percent return on any funds raised over $250,000.

Hotton told the producers he had secured $4.5 million from overseas investors, court records said, but the men, with names like "Julian Spencer" and "Walter Timmons," were all made up.

Hotton had even demanded an advance payment from the producers in April 2012 to cover the cost of a safari he had supposedly taken with one of the fictional investors.

In January, lead producer Ben Sprecher told the Broadway publication Playbill.com that he hoped to launch the show by the end of 2013.

The case is U.S. v. Mark Hotton, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 12-825.

(Reporting By Erin Geiger Smith)

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