UK firm sues after Lady Gaga concert scam

British company Banana Split claims in court that it was scammed for $1.1 million by two men using "multiple corporate shells".

The firm alleges that the men said they could book pop singer Lady Gaga for a concert - and it says it's not the only one that's been cheated.

"Defendants and their co-conspirators have created an enterprise comprised of multiple corporate shells that is funded by and actively engaged in a pattern of defrauding businesses using the same concert scam," the federal complaint states. "When one corporation falls, defendants merely create another to take its place.

"Defendants have run the same scam before."

Banana Split PLC sued Red Entertainment Group Corp. dba Red Entertainment Agency, Carlos Fernandez aka Carlos Keyes, Sylvester Herbert Sylvester Carroll, and Nevada Style LLC.

Red Entertainment operates out of New York City; its founder and principal is Keyes, of North Bergen, N.J., according to the complaint.

Nevada Style is a New Jersey LLC; Carroll, of Whitehouse Station, N.J., filed for bankruptcy in May 2011, the complaint states.

"Defendants executed a web polished scheme to bill hundreds of thousands of dollars from foreign concert promoters by posing as entertainment agents and purporting to book concerts on behalf of famous music artists with whom they had no relationship whatsoever. The defendants pocketed the deposits and booking fees and secreted the money out of the reach of the concert promoter before their scam was found out," the complaint states.

The complaint state that several "nonparty corporations were funded either directly or indirectly for the purpose of carrying out the fraudulent laundering [of] the proceeds of a pattern of racketeering activity:".

Rebel One Management Inc., the complaint states, is or was "a nonparty business corporation operated by Ray Annis, a nonparty individual operated by Ray Annis, a nonparty individual involved with the defendants' prior scams to defraud. Rebel One was created to launder the proceeds of defendants' prior frauds and to shield the payout of funds from defendants' frauds." The complaint adds that the name of Rebel One Management is "deceptively similar" to the real booking agent for Rihanna, Rebel One LLC, and that the conspirators used that to bilk another victim for a bogus Rihanna concert (see below).

NFA Entertainment Inc., of New York City, "is the parent company of Rebel One and was created to facilitate the same scheme for which Rebel One was created," the complaint states.

Vegas Style Entertainment LLC and Vegas Style Talent Agency LLC, "are two nonparty limited liability companies owned and/or operated by Carroll. Vegas Style purports to be an entertainment and talent agency, but was created to launder the proceeds of defendants' prior frauds and to shield the payout of funds from defendants' frauds," according to the complaint.

Vincent Herbert, also a nonparty, "aided and participated in defendants' scheme to defraud plaintiff," the complaint states. And it says that Unique Sports and Marketing/Incresso Fácil is a foreign business that "is a previous victim of the defendants' fraud scam."

Banana Split says in the complaint: "In or about August 2011, defendant Keyes acting on his own behalf and on behalf of his business, Red Entertainment, approached plaintiff and convinced plaintiff to enter into a multimillion-dollar contract by falsely representing that defendant could book Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta aka the recording artist Lady Gaga for a private performance in Mexico. Defendant Keyes represented that he and Red Entertainment could/were 'connected' to Herbert, who in turn had a personal relationship with Lady Gaga and could act as Lady Gaga's agent in booking the performance for a $2,150.000 fee."

Banana Split says it paid deposit of $1.075 million directly to the schemers. It adds: "Defendants immediately diverted $650,000 of that money to an account owned by defendant Carroll's business Nevada Style for the purposed of funneling the money away from plaintiff and to defendants."

The defendants then fended off calls for information for 2 months, Banana Split says.

On February 12 this year, Banana Split says, Herbert, whom it describes as "a nonparty conspirator, appeared on the television broadcast of the Grammy Awards Ceremony sitting next to Lady Gaga. Defendant Keyes directed plaintiff's attention to the broadcast and stated to plaintiff: 'Did you see who Lady Gaga was sitting next to? My contact, Vincent Herbert!' Upon information and belief, Herbert and defendant Keyes took advantage of the opportunity then presented to them when Herbert [was?] videotaped next to Lady Gaga to assuage plaintiff's concern and create the appearance that the performance contract were [sic], in fact, a contract with Lady Gaga."

(Courthouse News would like to clarify that though the 21-page complaint calls Herbert a "nonparty conspirator," it does not present any evidence that Herbert knew of or was involved with the defendants' alleged scam. Nor does the complaint allege that Germanotta/Lady Gaga had any involvement with it.)

The complaint continues: "In early March 2012, plaintiff met with Troy Carter, who is Lady Gaga's actual agent. Carter stated that Lady Gaga would not do the performance required by the performance contract."

Banana Split says it immediately called Keyes and demanded the return of its $1,075,000 deposit. "Defendant Keyes explained that $650,000 had been transferred to defendants Carroll and Nevada Style, claiming that Keyes had been working with Nevada Style to secure the performance," the complaint states.

The defendants then "engaged in several furtive acts designed to stall plaintiff's demands for the immediate return of its money," but "used the time in which they stalled plaintiff from filing this complaint to move their assets out of the reach of this court," the complaint states.

It adds: "Defendants have used this scam before." In June 2010, it claims, Carroll and Vegas Style bilked Unique Sports by claiming they could book Rihanna for three concerts in Brazil, though "neither Carroll nor Vegas Style had any authority to act on behalf of Rihanna or to enter into any performance contract on her behalf. Also unbeknownst to Unique Sports, defendants had completely fabricated the performance contract, riders, and broker fee out of whole cloth."

Banana Split claims that Unique Sports wired $165,000 to Vegas Style in July 2010, as a supposed 10 percent deposit, and wired it another $660,000 on Aug. 15, 2010. "Four days later, on or about August 19, 2010, Vegas Style transferred $528,750 of that money to a separate account opened by Rebel One for the purpose of diverting the money to defendants and their co-conspirators," the complaint states.

It continues: "Defendants' scam began to unravel on August 23, 2010, when Unique Sports received a letter to cease and desist promoting the concert from Rihanna's actual booking agent, who claimed Rihanna was not scheduled to perform the Brazil concerts."

The complaint says in a footnote: "The company actually authorized to book concerts on behalf of Rihanna is named Rebel One LLC, which is deceptively similar to name to Ray Annis's company Rebel One Management, Inc."

Banana Split seeks the return of its $1,075,000 deposit, and damages for conspiracy and fraud. It is represented by Kathleen Matsoukas, with Barnes & Thornburg, of Chicago.

On the Red Entertainment Agency website this morning, redentertainment.com, the company described itself in these words: Since its founding in 2002, Red Entertainment Agency has established itself as a leading entertainment talent agency, guiding the careers of an elite roster of musical artists.

Under the leadership of agency President Carlos Keyes, Red Entertainment has carved out a distinctive niche in the entertainment landscape and earned a reputation for putting artists' interests above all else. With a select group of professional agents working side by side, the Red Entertainment credo is one of team work and availability that translates into successful relationships for all clients."

On the website's "Artist Roster," the company claims to represent Bob Geldof, CeCeWinans, Chaka Khan, Diane Schuur, Dionne Warwick, Freddie Jackson, Keith Sweat, Naughty By Nature, Peabo Bryson, Steven Seagal, and others.

*This story first appeared on the Courthouse News website.

 

 

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