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Bogus Mariah Carey concert scam leads to prison

Friday 10 May 2019

Bogus Mariah Carey concert scam leads to prison | mcarchives.com
Raul Mejia Pereida, who helped arrange a bogus Mariah Carey concert for Grand Rapids Pride Festival's LGBTQ celebration, has been sentenced to two years, three months in prison, to be followed by three years on supervised release. Restitution is set at $130,000. Co-defendant Allen Dean Gordon Clayborn was earlier sentenced to five years in prison.

Grand Rapids Pride and Northern Arizona Pride wanted Carey to perform at fund-raising events to finance the organizations' charitable work. Carey was supposedly set to perform at the Calder Plaza. "Both contracts were fraudulent and the singer never appeared because she knew nothing about them," Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy VerHey wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

Pereida, a.k.a. Raul Mejia, and Clayborn, both California residents, pleaded guilty to wire fraud. Clayton also pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft. Pereida's attorney contented he was a bit player in the scheme. Grand Rapids Pride Center negotiated a contract with the defendants who posed as Carey's representatives. The center, provided with false contracts, bank records, emails and text messages, lost $130,000.

Clayborn was the "face of the fraud" but Pereida, who is not a legal U.S. resident, was involved from the start, the prosecutor said. The two flew to New York City in December 2016 to meet with concert promoters and Grand Rapids Pride leadership. The meeting, which included dinner and a Carey concert, was "crucial to the scheme's success", VerHey said.

"The purpose of the meeting was to treat GRP members to a Mariah Carey concert and convince them that they were part of the singer's organization. Pereida also bankrolled the online purchase of concert tickets, which Clayborn altered to make them appear to be complementary tickets issued directly from Carey," VerHey said.

The defendants used the name and supposed signature of an actual Mariah Carey representative who knew nothing about the scheme. Once negotiations were complete, the victims wired funds to Pereida's bank account in California, VerHey said in court records.

Sean Tilton, an assistant federal public defender, said Pereida, 47, is remorseful. He has no prior criminal record. In letters of support, Pereida was described as "family-oriented, generous, hardworking, and a good role model", Tilton said.

His client was born in Jalisco, Mexico. He began working at 14 to support his family after his mother died and father left. He has lived in the U.S. since 1990. He worked 19 years for a Neiman Marcus store restaurant in California.

Tilton contended that Clayborn received most of the proceeds of the crime. Other funds covered their living expenses. "After the conclusion of this offense, Mr. Pereida was in a worse financial situation than when it started," Tilton wrote. Pereida's life savings were gone and he was left with a $20,000 credit-card balance, the attorney said.

Clayborn, with a history of fraud, "knows how to manipulate people", including his client, Tilton wrote. He said that Clayborn is suspected of defrauding adult-film star Jenna Jameson of $33,000 before this offense. After the Grand Rapids fraud, Clayborn purported to represent Carey and singer Kelly Clarkson in another scheme, Tilton said.

He said his client played a "very limited" role. "Mr. Pereida apologizes to the victims of this offense. Mr. Pereida believes that this offense has ruined his life. He lost his life savings. He is likely to be deported and is unlikely to be able to return to the United States following his sentence."

(MLive)


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