By Robert E. Kessler -
NEW YORK — A man has been charged by federal prosecutors with three alleged frauds worth close to $5 million, including bilking the producers of a Broadway show out of $60,000 by inventing imaginary backers, prosecutors said.
Mark Hotton, 46, of West Islip, N.Y., was arraigned in federal court Monday on charges that he obtained the money by falsely claiming he could get the producers $4.5 million to help underwrite the show “Rebecca,” based on the Gothic romance novel.
“Mark Hotton perpetrated stanger-than-fiction frauds both on and off-Broadway,” Preet Bhara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a news release.
Hotton is also being charged with two other frauds—variations of what prosecutors say is a common confidence scam known as an advance-fee scheme, in which victims are promised a large sum of money after paying an upfront fee, but never get it.
In the alleged scheme, Hotton is accused of inventing a large cast of characters who he said were the potential backers, including a man from Hawthorne, East Victoria, “Paul Abrams,” who supposedly died of malaria after traveling in Africa before he could invest.
Earlier Monday, Hotton’s lawyer Gerald Shargel said his client “tried his hardest to raise” money for the show. “He certainly wasn’t doing this with any fraudulent purpose.”
Ron Russo, lawyer for “Rebecca” producer Ben Specher, said: “Ben Specher is most gratified that the government has moved quickly to bring this man to justice. Unfortunately, he has done incalculable damage to Broadway, and to ‘Rebecca’ the musical. Ben is totally committed to proceeding to bring “Rebecca” to Broadway.”
In a second alleged scheme, federal prosecutors in Manhattan charged Hotton with cheating the president of an unnamed Connecticut real estate company out $750,000 by promising he could obtain a $20 million loan for unspecified businesses, prosecutors said. One supposed investor in Connecticut was also named “Paul Abrams” and used the same email address as the so-called investor in “Rebecca,” prosecutors said.
On Long Island, U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch charged Hotton, with his wife, sister, and three others with a third wire fraud, as well as money laundering, in an alleged scheme to defraud a Sterling Commercial Credit of Brighton, Mich., out of $3.7 million. Hotton and his associates claimed that in exchange for the $3.7 million, they could obtain $9.8 million in accounts receivable from various businesses. Sterling operated as a factor, meaning he obtained at a discount unpaid business debts and collected on the bills.
Hotton pleaded not guilty at his arraignment on the Long Island federal case, as did his wife, Sherri Hotton, 43, his sister, Denise Hotton Labriola, 50, of West Islip, and two of his employees, Marianne Mextorf, 51, of Farmingdale, and Michael Scibelli, 54, of West Babylon.
A sixth person indicted in the Long Island scheme, David Blass, 60, identified as the former assistant director of facilities engineering for Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, has not yet been apprehended, officials said. He provided some false bills used the scheme, prosecutors said.
U.S. Magistrate Arlene Lindsay ordered Hotton and other defendants held without bail, pending future hearings.
Assistant United States Attorney Burton Ryan, in arguing in court papers that Hotton be held without bail, said that he may have large sums of cash hidden abroad, noting that he often traveled to the Cayman Islands, and sailed overseas on his yacht, the Hott Catch.
Ryan said federal agents are investigating other schemes that they believe Hotton is involved in and his total frauds might amount to $15 million.
He said that Hotton is a danger to the community because on several recent occasions he allegedly “swerved” his car toward a neighbor’s wife, and on Saturday threatened her, according to the neighbor’s husband.
These incidents occurred after the neighbor, identified only as John Doe 1, complained to Hotton that he had lost an unspecified amount of money in one of Hotton’s deals, Ryan said.