Ben Sprecher, an American broadway producer, was arrested on charges of possession of child pornography on Aug. 13, according to multiple reports.
The New York Police Department arrived at Sprecher’s address on West 122nd Street in Harlem, and took him into custody at 6 a.m., after a criminal complaint was filed against the producer by the Manhattan-located U.S. attorney’s office, according to NBC New York. A search warrant was then conducted on the producer’s home by the NYPD and the Homeland Security Investigations agents, where evidence of child pornography was found through the search. The evidence was seized by the authorities.
— New York Post (@nypost) August 13, 2019
No further information about the criminal complaint was available, nor was there any information regarding Sprecher’s attorney.
This case was a joint operation involving the New York Police Department and the Homeland Security Investigations.
The producer was known for his work “Rebecca,” a musical that was supposed to have taken to the stage back in the fall of 2012, according to NBC New York, but it was canceled after Sprecher found out that one of the major financial supporters—a businessman who went by the name of Paul Abrams—did not exist. Abrams was an identity created by stockbroker and securities dealer, Mark Hotton. According to the earlier reporting by the news outlet, Hotton said Abrams was supposed to donate $4.5 million to the project.
The news outlet reported that the case was investigated by the FBI and Sprecher said that he believes that he was a victim of a scam. He said the existence of Paul Abrams was not something that he made up.
Sprecher’s lawyer, Ronald Russo, found evidence that Paul Abrams was a victim and that in addition to Abrams and other investors of the “Rebecca” project were “works of stagecraft,” according to NBC New York. Russo said that Sprecher was looking for financial backing because his own production company did not have enough money to fund the project. It was at this time that Mark Hotton, a Long Island stockbroker and securities dealer, was introduced to the producer. Hotton said that he was in communication with a businessman, Paul Abrams, who was able to provide the rest of the money in order to make the production possible.
Sprecher signed a contract with Abrams and was led to believe that the production of “Rebecca” would go smoothly. Hotton ended up taking $60,000 from the production company acting as a middleman for the producer and Abrams and promised Sprecher that he would be able to give the producer $4.5 million that Abrams promised. Sprecher paid some of that money on his own, and since he thought Hotton was credible, he believed the man, according to the New York Times.
But as rehearsals started, Sprecher received bad news—Abrams contracted Malaria while in Africa and died, all before the mysterious Abrams could write a check for $2 million for the production. This news was dreadful for Sprecher, as people were beginning to doubt the credibility of Sprecher through the entire ordeal.
In retrospect, Sprecher said that when he was considering his production, he really didn’t have enough time to stop and wonder whether a sponsor might be fake or not, according to the New York Times. In addition, Russo said that investigations into sponsors weren’t exactly common.
“When I’m in the thick of it, when I’m producing the show, and all of a sudden investors are not being forthcoming or all of a sudden difficult, it’s difficult to say, ‘Wait a minute — maybe they’re not real,'” said Sprecher. He told the New York Times that with everything that was going on, he had no time to consider whether he was being duped or not.
In fact, he even planned a trip to London, where the supposed Abrams lived, in order to receive his side of the agreement, but he never went, because all communicated ceased before he could.
Hotton was sentenced two years and 10 months in jail.