The promise of easy money brought Jim Russell to a bar at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills.
Russell, a steel company executive from Las Vegas, had come to meet Zachary Horwitz, a low-level actor seeking investors for his film company.
Horwitz made it sound simple: He would use Russell’s money to buy the rights to cheap movies — “Slasher Party,” “Satanic Panic” and the like — and then resell them to HBO for distribution in Latin America. He’d pay Russell back in six months with a 15% profit.
Russell had already wired Horwitz more than half a million dollars after a friend vouched for the 30-year-old actor.
Now, Horwitz was offering a chance to invest much more.
At dinner that night in 2017, Russell was intrigued but nervous. What would happen if HBO declined to buy the rights to a film, he asked.
“HBO has never backed out,” Horwitz replied, according to Russell.
Over the next two years, Russell…