When Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom were cooking up the ultimate Broadway scam in Mel Brooks' movie and musical The Producers ("Step one: we find the worst play ever written. Step two: we hire the worst director in town. Step three: I raise two million dollars…"), the result was pure hilarity. But whether on stage or on screen, there is a cavalcade of real scams out there that are anything but funny.
The long-running saga of Rebecca, explored in the latest episode of American Greed, is a prime example.
The musical adaptation of a gothic English novel and an Alfred Hitchcock film, Rebecca was already playing to sellout crowds overseas, so it seemed like a surefire Broadway smash. Bringing the production to the Great White Way became producer Ben Sprecher's dream.
But staging a Broadway musical is a much bigger undertaking than putting on a show in Vienna. So in order to raise the last $4.5 million of the $15 million or so they needed to carry it off, Sprecher turned to New York investment broker Mark Hotton, who seemed to have it all together.
"You couldn't meet this guy and not think that he was an entrepreneur," Sprecher's attorney and friend Ronald Russo tells American Greed. "He had the $40,000 watch, he had the handkerchief, he had the cufflinks. He was a guy who presented himself as a major player."