Four men are accused of running a concert scheme in which they tried to get investors to pay millions of dollars for shows they said were for A-list singers Rihanna, Bruno Mars and Janet Jackson, federal authorities said.
Authorities were alerted to the alleged scam in July 2018 when a lawyer for an entertainment company that represents Rihanna contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation to report that a man named Kwasi Asare, 39, of New Orleans, was trying to get investors to pay $19.5 million for a Rihanna concert.
Asare had promised a 22 percent return on the investments, according to a complaint filed in April by the United State's Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York.
After representatives of the "Umbrella" singer denied knowing Asare and told FBI that she had no plans to do a tour, an undercover agent contacted Asare posing as an interested investor, according to the filings.
Over the course almost a year, Asare emailed with the undercover agent and met with him in person in California and Las Vegas to try to solicit investments.
In November 2018, Asare tried to get the agent to invest $4 million in a Bruno Mars concert in California. Asare told the agent that the concert was being promoted by Rio Vista Universal executives Mark Lamica, 52, of California, and James Ganiere, 47, of California, who are both named as co-defendants.
A website for Rio Vista redirects to a Wikipedia page and a call to a number listed for them was not immediately returned.
In February, Asare emailed the agent again, this time asking for a $20 million investment for a concert Asare said Jackson was headlining. Court documents state that Asare promised the agent he would get "$400,000 from each of the 16 shows." The following month, the agent wired a $25,000 "down payment" from New York to Asare and his co-defendants.
During a meeting in early April, the agent met up with Asare, Lamica, Ganiere and a fourth defendant, Kevin Carriker, 49, of California, to discuss the purported Jackson concert. During the meeting, Asare "insisted" the agent pay an additional $2 million as soon as possible, documents claim.
In both instances, representatives of Jackson and Mars denied knowing Asare and his co-defendants and said the singers did not authorize him to solicit investors. They also denied agreeing, or even knowing about, the concerts.
All four suspects were arrested Wednesday morning in California on fraud charges for conspiracy to defraud investors. They are expected to appear in a Long Island court next month.
According to the complaint, Lamica "has a long history of defrauding investors in similar schemes" and falsely claimed he represented the group KISS.
Carriker also allegedly has a "long history of defrauding victims" and was convicted of grand larceny in California in 2003 for defrauding elderly people of thousands of dollars by "stealing their gold and silver collectible coins." He also embezzled $75,000 from his former employer and then "robbed said employer and a co-worker, and stabbed his employer and threatened to kill his co-worker," documents state. He served 13 years in prison for both those offenses and was out on parole.