An Orlando concert promoter ran a scam that has cost victims between $5,000 to $7 million each, much of which they’ll never see again.
The mastermind will now spend a decade in prison for the fraud.
Andres Fernandez would tell potential investors that he couldn’t give too much information about the business, but promised returns up to 100 percent, according to federal officials.
“The average return for a promoter is about 10%, but they were telling their investors they’d get 50%-100% return on investment,” said Special Agent Kerrie Harney, who investigated the case out of the FBI’s Tampa Field Office.
“They used the whole mystique of concerts and the music industry and took advantage of the fact that the average person doesn’t know how it works.”
The scheme began in March 2016 and went on for a little over a year. Fernandez lived on the money he got from these investors and re-paid prior investors in a Ponzi-like scheme, according to police.
The promoter did take investors to a concert venue where he worked to show them that his business was legitimate. He told investors that he planned to expand to stadium-size concert venues, and planned to book famous artists like The Weeknd and Pitbull, federal officials say.
In order to persuade investors, he produced fake documents such as fraudulent contracts with artists and Ticketmaster.
Early investors in the scam were Fernandez’s friends and neighbors. Edison Denizard, one of his initial investors, got good returns and began working with Fernandez to bring in even more investors.
Some of Denizard’s contacts had millions of dollars to invest, which greatly expanded the enterprise, according to federal officials.
Fernandez gave investors a quick payout, which would convince them to invest more money, a classic tactic in Ponzi schemes.
The plan came crashing down when Fernandez ran out of money. One of his investors called a lawyer, who quickly figured out that his client had been a victim of fraud.
“They maliciously preyed on people to get their money under false pretenses, and many victims lost a significant amount of their savings,” Harney said.
“We have to make sure people aren’t victimized like that, and when they are, that the criminals are brought to justice.”
The government is using the asset forfeiture process to try to return some of the money to the victims. However, most will only receive a small fraction of the money they invested.
Fernandez pleaded guilty to wire fraud in connection to the scheme and was sentenced to 10 years in prison earlier this year. Denizard pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges, and was sentenced to more than four years in prison in February.
“It’s really a cautionary tale,” Harney said. “This scam hurt a lot of families who have lost a lot of money.”