'Rebecca' producers sue LI businessman

An exterior view of the Broadhurst Theatre, where An exterior view of the Broadhurst Theatre, where the musical, "Rebecca," was to open in Manhattan. The play was ultimately cancelled due to lack of financing. (Oct. 3, 2012) Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

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Producers of the troubled Broadway musical "Rebecca" filed a $100 million lawsuit Friday against Long Island businessman Mark Hotton, accusing him of torpedoing the production by fabricating potential investors for the project.

The partnership behind "Rebecca," including producers Ben Sprecher and Louise Forlenza, also sued Hotton's wife, Sherri, and three unidentified people accused of sending a malicious email that scared off a major investor who was prepared to pump $2.2 million into the show, and other investors.

The suit was filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

Sprecher and his partners "are working tirelessly to salvage the show, but if it cannot be saved, then defendants are responsible for its destruction, along with at least hundreds of millions of dollars in lost profit damages," the complaint states.

The lawsuit accuses Hotton of conducting an elaborate charade when he fabricated four overseas investors and collected about $60,000 in fees and other payments from the producers.

Sherri Hotton is accused of aiding the fraud by attending a party for investors and depositing payments her husband received in connection with "Rebecca" into a corporate account she controlled.

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Mark Hotton, 46, a financier who lives in the Babylon Cove section of West Islip, is being held without bail after he was arrested earlier this week on federal fraud charges related to the musical. His wife, charged with fraud in a separate federal criminal case, is also in custody.

The lawsuit claims Hotton was introduced to the show partners at some point after March 2011, when the partnership had corralled commitments of $7 million. According to the suit, Hotton said he had gotten commitments for an additional $4.5 million toward the show's budget of $12 million to $14 million.

Throughout much of this year, Hotton ostensibly went off to secure four investors -- three from the United Kingdom and one from Australia. But despite getting expense money and other fees, Hotton "perpetrated an elaborate ruse" and concocted the investors, providing fictional names, addresses, emails and signatures, according to the lawsuit.

After the malicious emails were sent and financing dried up, the show stalled, although Sprecher said this week he believes the publicity about the alleged fraud has made "Rebecca" a hot item and that new financing can be found. The musical is based on a 1938 novel.

Attorney Gerald Shargel, representing Hotton, could not be reached for comment Friday.

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Sherri Hotton doesn't have an attorney of record.

Attorney Ronald Russo, who represents Sprecher, said Friday that he has a lot of work to do now that the lawsuit has been filed, including discovering who sent the malicious emails.

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