A man impersonating artist reps, last heard from in 2008 trying to run a scam on a charity organization by making a fake offer for Ronnie James Dio, may have resurfaced and is attempting to impersonate another artist rep.
If so, he may have picked the wrong guy this time – 20-year concert veteran Joe Fletcher, who is concentrating on films rather than music these days.
And this time, one of the artists being offered up for bookings is Boston founder Tom Scholz – who does not tour as a solo artist.
Fletcher, who resides in Carmel, Calif., learned someone was using his name and a "Joe Fletcher Presents" business Web site in an attempt to bilk businesses in Wisconsin, Illinois, New York and California.
"This person copied my info and is contacting clubs around the country trying to get them to send him money," Fletcher told Pollstar.
The contact information includes "business" addresses in Seattle, Chicago and New York City. And the offers are ridiculously low – $5,000 for Scholz plus a "full band" to play unusually small venues – and sometimes include a shakedown for another $3,000 for radio spot placement.
The impersonator has also been posting "help wanted" advertisements to Chicago’s Craigslist and other local bulletin boards and asking applicants to pay $50 to cover a "background check," Fletcher said.
"I sent a cease-and-desist letter and I got this response that was very belligerent," Fletcher said. "I talked to a couple of other club owners and they all said the same thing – when you confront this person, he’s incredibly aggressive and belligerent."
In the meantime, Pollstar received what at first appeared to be an unrelated e-mail from a man identifying himself as a Chicago-area musician, warning that a man going by the name of Cary Zermeno – a name connected to several alleged promoter scams between 2006-08 – was back in business in the Windy City.
The latest impersonator has also reportedly attempted to book David Lee Roth, a trait shared with one other, seemingly long-gone, scam artist.
When last heard from, a person who is believed to have used several aliases over the years, including Cary Zermeno, David Wilson, Michael Robertson and Doug Goldstein, attempted to "sell" a Ronnie James Dio appearance to a charity motorcycle ride in the name of the late "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott. The charity tripped up the attempt by making a few phone calls and confirming the offer was bogus.
Pollstar had already reported several instances of what appeared to be the same person running the same scam on several club owners, primarily in the Midwest. The reporting drew a verbally abusive, after-hours voicemail from the mystery "agent" threatening to take legal action.
Many of the details of the latest impersonator’s contact with Fletcher are strikingly similar to those in the scams of 2006-08. In addition to Ronnie James Dio, artists being "offered" for nonexistent plays during that time include Tone Loc, David Lee Roth, Axl Rose, Poison, Bret Michaels and Alice In Chains.
The impersonator has employed a remarkable knowledge of concert industry lingo and processes, which has worked in his favor to convince potential victims he is legitimate.
Skeptical talent buyers have been able to short-circuit the scam by simply confirming artist availability by contacting their responsible agents. And in this case, contacting law enforcement when it becomes obvious fraud or misrepresentation may be involved. But others weren’t as quick to question, setting themselves up to be victims.
A representative for Scholz was unable to get a statement from the artist regarding the bogus "agent" shopping him for shows at press time, but told Pollstar that law enforcement agencies in Chicago have been contacted.
The real Joe Fletcher is also sharing information with law enforcement.
"I got a call from the police department in Racine, Wis., saying they think they know who it is," Fletcher said. "They’ve subpoenaed everyone involved. They have all these accounts he’s setting up, Moneygram accounts he’s setting up. … The guy is apparently living with his parents in some house in Racine."