Ben Sprecher, who spent six years in court trying to restore his reputation following the pre-opening collapse of Rebecca the Musical, was accused in a Federal complaint of possessing and distributing child pornography.
The 65-year-old producer was arrested Tuesday morning at his Harlem home and released in the afternoon on a $100,000 bond, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said. A married father of two young adults, he appeared in Federal court in lower Manhattan but wasn’t required to make a plea. Neither Sprecher nor the public defender representing him returned emails seeking comment.
Sprecher was arrested eight days after his newest venture, The Exorcist Global Productions, announced a planned $3 million play adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s 1971 horror novel in Spring 2020 in New York. Details weren’t released.
Stuart Snyder, a partner in the venture and a former Turner Broadcasting executive, didn’t return a call and email on Tuesday.
According to the Federal complaint, from at least October 2018 to August 2019, Sprecher “used a peer-to-peer file sharing network to receive and make available for download over 100 video or photo files known to contain child pornography” — including depictions of prepubescent children involved in sex with adults. While executing a search warrant at the producer’s home, officers recovered an external hard drive that contained files with the child pornography.
When questioned by a New York City Police detective, Sprecher waived his right to remain silent and admitted that he downloaded child pornography, the complaint said.
Sprecher recently ended his legal effort to hold his former press agent accountable for the implosion of what was to be his first Broadway musical. In April, Sprecher settled his personal lawsuit against publicist Marc Thibodeau, obviating the need for a second Rebecca trial in two years.
In 2012, Sprecher and his then-producing partner, Louise Forlenza, were derailed by a Long Island stock broker whom they contracted to complete the $12 million minimum capitalization of the show. Grifter Mark Hotton invented fictional overseas investors who purported to commit $4.5 million — until the largest of the whales supposedly died of malaria. (Sprecher was informed of the death of the non-existent man almost exactly seven years ago.)
There’s no evidence that Sprecher was aware of the con perpetuated on him.
Soon after, a real-life angel emerged who sought to invest millions in Rebecca, until Thibodeau sent unsolicited and anonymous emails raising red flags about the show’s prospects and financing. Thibodeau had said that he was trying to save an innocent man from losing a lot of money.
Sprecher insisted that he and Forlenza would’ve been able to open Rebecca had Thibodeau not intervened. Thibodeau’s lawyers countered that the producers still faced a seven-figure shortfall.
More recently, Sprecher was preparing for a career change. With a new diploma in restaurant management from the Institute of Culinary Education, he sought to revive the old-world family restaurant Rumpelmayer’s, and bring the former Central Park South institution to Rockefeller Center. Among his challenges, he failed to secure the trademark for the Rumpelmayer’s name.
The U.S. Attorney has 30 days to formally indict Sprecher. As of now, he’s charged with one count of distribution and receipt of child pornography and a count of possession of child pornography. The New York Post, which first reported Sprecher’s arrest, said that he’s due back in court on Sept. 12.