"Rebecca" producer speaks out about alleged fraud

Broadway producer Ben Sprecher speaks during a press conference in New York on April 13, 2004.
File,AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

(CBS News) Broadway and movie fans know "The Producers" is all about a scam that backfires. But prosecutors in New York now say a real Broadway musical has been victimized by a real scam.

A suspect, Mark Hotton, is being held without bail. He's accused of inventing a millionaire group of investors. And the show he allegedly scammed may not go on because of his alleged fraud.

NYer accused of defrauding Broadway show "Rebecca"

This fall, the Broadhurst Theater in New York was supposed to debut a dark musical about a woman named Rebecca. Instead, the show's producer, Ben Sprecher, found himself starring in an all-too-real tragedy. Sprecher said, "This entire thing, interrupting the organic process of putting on a Broadway musical, which is all I care about, is completely surreal."

Sprecher's surreal tale began in the spring, when he and other producers needed several million dollars to continue production on Broadway's "Rebecca: The Musical," a haunting story of an Englishman's dead first wife, made famous by Alfred Hitchcock in 1940. They enlisted the help of Hotton, who brought four investors and nearly $4.5 million. But as planning resumed, Sprecher discovered both the money and the investors were not real. "I was a puddle, as were some of the members of the cast, " Sprecher said. "Because we've waited a long time to do this show, and it's worth it, and to get to the first day of rehearsal and not go forward? Oh my God, that's not OK."

After a weeks-long federal investigation, Hotton was arrested at his home Monday and charged with two counts of wire fraud. In a 19-page complaint, investigators say Hotton engaged in a series of elaborate deceits, preyed on the producers' need for financing, and defrauded them into paying him in excess of $60,000.

Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly senior editor, said, "This is one of the oddest stories ever to hit Broadway and it didn't even go on Broadway."

According to a prosecutor, "Hotton faked lives, faked companies and even staged a fake death, pretending that one imaginary investor had suddenly died from malaria."

Sprecher recalled, "I was sitting on my couch in my den with my children and I go, 'He died? How is that possible?'"

By the time the "Rebecca" producers realized Hotton's investors weren't real, they had already spent $6 million and were millions more in debt.

Geier said, "All of that work is pretty much on hold now, and a lot of the investment has already been sunk into what they've already done for the show."

"The misrepresentation of facts was unbelievable, that was hurtful, and it hurt me, my family, the people involved in the show, the actors," Sprecher said. "It's a terrible thing."

For now, Sprecher's only audience is his attorney. But he's hoping to attract new investors and says "Rebecca" will still have her opening night on Broadway.

Watch Michelle Miller's report in the video above.