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Two charged in botched Stevie Wonder concert
BY CHRISTOPHER WEBER / Associated Press
A North Carolina man has been indicted on federal charges for allegedly scamming the University of Hawaii out of $200,000 to organize a Stevie Wonder concert that never happened, prosecutors announced Thursday, Nov. 8.
A grand jury returned an indictment against 44-year-old Marc Hubbard on Wednesday on a charge of wire fraud, U.S. Attorney Florence Nakakuni said during a news conference in Honolulu. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Another man, 44-year-old Sean Barriero, is accused of transporting the money as part of the deal. Barriero, a British subject living in Miami, pleaded guilty Thursday in a Honolulu federal court. He was not involved in the planning of the fraud and is cooperating with authorities, U.S. assistant attorney Les Osbourne said.
The widely advertised Stevie Wonder concert was to raise funds for the university’s athletic department.
Planning began in April, with Hubbard convincing a local promoter that he had connections with a former Motown Records executive who could secure Wonder for a show on Aug. 18. The school paid $200,000 as a deposit, but learned after starting to sell tickets that neither the singer nor his representatives authorized the concert.
Thousands of tickets had to be refunded starting in July, leading to embarrassment for the school and an FBI investigation.
Hubbard told Barriero that he had relationships with Wonder’s management to book and arrange the concert, Nakakuni said. Barriero, described as an aspiring promoter, took Hubbard at his word, according to Nakakuni.
After talking with Barriero, the university transferred the $200,000 in June to one of Barriero’s accounts in Florida, Nakakuni said. Court documents show $120,000 was disbursed to Hubbard, $11,250 was wired to an unnamed individual in Europe and $16,750 was kept by Barreiro. Hubbard spent his share on personal and business expenses that had nothing to do with a Wonder show, court documents said.
“No money went to Stevie Wonder or any entity authorized to represent Mr. Stevie Wonder,” Nakakuni said.
One month earlier, a private investor had transferred $50,000 to Barriero to secure the show, and Barriero transferred $27,500 of it to Hubbard, according to the indictment.
A 2010 Mercedes Benz SUV was seized in Florida in connection with the investigation, said FBI Special Agent Tom Simon.
Hubbard, a club and concert promoter from Waxhaw, N.C., was arrested after surrendering to federal authorities in Charlotte. A judge will decide Tuesday whether he should be extradited to Hawaii.
Hubbard was arraigned last week in Spartanburg, S.C., on securities fraud and forgery charges for allegedly soliciting $700,000 from a victim in 2008 to promote an Alicia Keyes concert, according the Star-Advertiser.
Barriero was released on a $50,000 unsecured bond and faces up to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced Feb. 21. A call to his public defender was not immediately returned Thursday.
In a written statement, UH President M.R.C. Greenwood thanked the FBI and prosecutors and said the university hopes to get some kind of restitution.
“We trust this will help the university move past the failed concert episode and move forward with its many important missions,” Greenwood said.
Federal officials stressed Thursday that there was no criminal wrongdoing on the part of any university official.
State lawmakers determined the fiasco ultimately cost the university about $1.1 million, including payments to three law firms and a three-year contract for the university’s former athletic director, who was put on leave while the school investigated. He was given a new job after he threated to sue if he wasn’t reinstated.
A UH Board of Regents task group, made up of five regents and four accounting and business professionals, is conducting its own investigation.