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Wednesday, June 12, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Magic Show Makes Giant Headache Appear

LAS VEGAS (CN) - A promoter claims in court that it was victimized in a $550,000 extortion scam by "rogue promoters" who claimed they could book (nonparty) magician Criss Angel for a show in Mexico.

SPI Entertainment sued Ernesto Beltran Chargoy and Alexis Somoza Erice in Federal Court. Angel is not a party to the complaint, nor is he accused of any wrongdoing.

SPI, a Las Vegas promoter owned and operated by nonparty Adam Steck, claims it began negotiating with Jorge Santos of GS Booking Agency in August 2011 to bring Angel's shows to Mexico and Latin America. Angel decided that the venue was too big for the type of magic that he does, the lawsuit states.

Neither Santos nor GS Booking are parties to the complaint.

In January 2012, SPI says, it "became aware that numerous rogue promoters in Mexico, all unknown to SPI ... were publicly and falsely claiming that they represented Criss Angel for his upcoming performances in Mexico, including for performances in venues which were not part of the negotiations between SPI and GS."

Angel's agents also learned of the misrepresentations and, thinking they were fabricated by SPI, sent a cease-and-desist letter to it and to GS Booking Agency, threatening legal action, the complaint states.

In February 2012, SPI says, Angel's representative David Barum contacted it about a "'Press invitation released in Mexico by PR Agency' concerning Criss Angel and which also references SPI."

SPI claims it sent a letter to GS Booking, stating that because of the numerous false representations by rogue promoters, all negotiations for Criss Angel shows between SPI and GS were to be stopped immediately.

SPI claims it had had made four wire transfers to GS Booking's Santos, returning $138,383 of the money Santos had sent plaintiff.

A remaining balance of $4,500 was for nonrefundable first-class airline tickets, and the parties agreed that this would not be refunded, according to the complaint.

In December 2012, SPI says, it got a letter from attorneys claiming to represent defendant Beltran.

But "SPI has never heard of Beltran, and has certainly never conducted any negotiations, or entered into any agreements with Beltran," the complaint states.

The letter falsely stated that an SPI agent appointed defendant Somoza as its agent to hire Angel to perform seven shows in Mexico in February 2012, according to the complaint.

However, "SPI has never heard of, or had any connection to, an Alexis Somoza nor was there a contract with Santos to provide Criss Angel for the shows on the dates mentioned," the complaint states.

The allegedly forged letter, supported by forged documents and signatures, also claimed, falsely, that in October 2011, Somoza, on SPI's behalf, had contracted with Beltran to invest $550,000 in the Angel shows, to be held in Guadalajara. The letter falsely claimed that Beltran transferred $550,000 into an SPI account, SPI claims.

"SPI did not receive $550,000 from Beltran, Somoza or any person or entity," the lawsuit states.

To top it off, the letter accused SPI of fraud, because it never had authorization to commit Angel to performances, according to the complaint.

But SPI claims it "initially had authorization to negotiate on behalf of Criss Angel," but "the authorization was rescinded upon the discovery of rogue promoters claiming to represent Criss Angel."

The letter demanded that SPI return $550,000 plus expenses and lost profits, for a total of $768,000.

"SPI denies ever knowing Beltran, or Somoza, and denies having entered into the forged agreement, or executing the forged letters, and denies ever receiving any money from Beltran and/or Somoza," the complaint states.

SPI seeks declaratory judgment that it did not engage in any business whatsoever with the defendants, did not receive any money from defendants, and does not owe them anything. It also wants an order banning defendants from representing to the media that they had a relationship with plaintiff.

SPI is represented by Mark G. Tratos with Greenberg Traurig, of Las Vegas.

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