Producers sue over alleged 'Rebecca' musical scam

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By DAVID B. CARUSO, Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — The producers of the Broadway musical "Rebecca" filed a civil lawsuit Friday against a Long Island securities dealer who was charged criminally this week with sinking the show with a bizarre fraud that involved fictitious investors and a faked death.

Mark Hotton, a one-time stock broker for Oppenheimer & Co., was arrested on Monday. Prosecutors accused him of flimflamming "Rebecca" lead producers Ben Sprecher and Louise Forlenza with an elaborate scheme in which he pretended to have raised $4.5 million in investments for the musical in exchange for tens of thousands of dollars in commission and travel expenses.

But the investors he claimed to have recruited all turned out to be fakes, prosecutors said. The plot fell apart after the producers began urgently pushing for Hotton to deliver the promised millions so the cast could begin rehearsals. Instead, he told them a key Australian investor had suddenly died of malaria in London.

In their lawsuit, Sprecher and his co-producers said Hotton and his wife, Sherri, and at least a few accomplices whose identities remain unknown, had caused millions of dollars in damages and "gravely wounded the production," which was postponed indefinitely when the fraud was revealed.

"Plaintiffs are working tirelessly to salvage the show," the suit said, "but if it cannot be saved, then (the) defendants are responsible for its destruction, along with at least hundreds of millions of dollars in lost profit damages."

Hotton's lawyer, Gerald Shargel, has said previously that his client didn't set out to defraud the show. He was not immediately available to respond to questions about the lawsuit Friday afternoon.

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