MANHATTAN (CN) – A phony agency that said it would book Nelly to play at a Taiwanese New Year’s Eve event may have to pay millions to the company that expected the hip-hop star’s appearance, a federal judge ruled on Monday.
In a 24-page order, U.S. District Judge Laura Swain detailed the purported agency’s elaborate hustle.
In October 2009, the Loop Production visited the website of Capital Connections Agency, which called itself “the largest booking agency in the United States” and said it represented luminaries like Barack Obama, Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey.
When the Loop emailed Capital Connections President Durbert O’Neal Brandon Jr. to book a recording artist for a New Year’s Eve party in Taiwan, Brandon said that Nelly, Ja Rule and Bobby Brown were all available to perform.
After a phone call, the Loop’s agent chose Nelly and agreed to wire the entire $40,000 booking fee in advance to Capital Connections’ bank account on Nov. 12, 2009.
About four days later, Brandon claimed not to have received the payment and said he would be unable to book Nelly. When confronted with a serial number confirming the wire transfer, Brandon said the payment was a day late and could not be returned.
Brandon instead offered to use part of the fee to book Ja Rule for the Taiwanese event.
The Loop, however, knew that Capital Connections could not hire Ja Rule because it had already booked that artist through another agent, the order states.
The Loop’s attorneys demanded a refund about a week later, and a four-month correspondence followed between the two sides.
The Loop gathered evidence from Nelly’s manager, who said that the artist and his agents had never heard of Capital Connections, and filed a lawsuit on April 9, 2010, for violations of anti-racketeering law and other charges.
In addition to Capital Connections and Brandon, it named Escobar Entertainment, four other individual plaintiffs and up to 50 unnamed individuals and corporations as defendants.
The Loop claimed hundreds of thousands in compensatory damages.
“Accounting for ticket sales, liquor and food sales, sales of VIP booths, sponsorships, performance fees, artist accommodations, and operation costs, Plaintiff projected profits of $222,500 for the New Year’s Eve party with Nelly as a scheduled performer,” the order states. “Plaintiffs actual profits for the event without Nelly were $34,000.”
The defendants did not reply to the complaint on time and defaulted, and then moved to dismiss the default before Judge Swain.
Although she tossed the breach-of-contract claim as void, Swain said that the facts supporting the remaining counts are “uncontroverted.”
She upheld five charges for RICO, conspiracy, aiding and abetting, fraud and conversion.
Four of these counts carry $228,000 in base damages. Of these, the two RICO awards would amount to $684,000 in treble damages. Capital Connections must also return the original $40,000 booking fee.