Two individuals are facing charges including conspiracy and wire fraud for allegedly using “fraudulent pretenses” and making “false representations” to steal a staggering $20 million in music royalties.
The Department of Justice just recently shed light upon the shocking indictment, which alleges that a 36-year-old Arizona resident named Jose Teran and a 38-year-old Florida resident named Webster Batista established a company called MediaMuv. Via MediaMuv – the web presence of which looks to have been scaled back dramatically, currently consisting of a few inactive social-media accounts – the defendants are alleged to have collected north of $20 million, as mentioned at the outset.
This alleged scam kicked off in 2016, according to the government agency’s release, and Teran and Batista are said to have “first claimed they had the legal right to monetize over 50,000+ songs” back in mid-February of 2017. Then, the royalty-minded crooks allegedly inked “contractual agreements” with “two third party companies,” the names of which aren’t disclosed in the text, maintaining that they possessed “legal rights over the music they claimed to control.”
Though these contracts allegedly allowed the criminals to line their pockets with millions in royalties that weren’t theirs, the two “did not pay anything to the top 30 artists or their representatives,” according to the document and the 30-count indictment, instead purchasing “high-end items such as cars, jewelry, and property.”
Additionally, the swindling duo “allegedly used the identities of others to make false claims about ownership and to create the false impression that MediaMuv had other employees.”
Law-enforcement professionals arrested Batista in Florida on Thursday, November 18th, and if convicted, he and Teran will face up to five years in prison on the initially noted conspiracy charges, up to 20 years behind bars for wire fraud, up to a decade for “transactional money laundering,” and “a mandatory consecutive sentence of 2 years for Aggravated Identity Theft.” On the fine side, the alleged royalty rip-off artists could be made to pay as much as $250,000 per felony conviction.
Time – and the pair’s criminal trials – will reveal additional details about the scam and its logistical specifics. But in terms of how the operation may have been brought to the attention of law enforcement, a Twitter account, aptly named “F*CK MEDIA MUV · WEBSTER BATISTA (YENDDI),” began firing off all manner of Spanish-language criticism of MediaMuv in January of 2018.
From pictures of the alleged criminals (as well as their family members) posing with expensive-looking jewelry and cars to images of YouTube copyright notices that artists purportedly received from MediaMuv regarding their own (the artists’) music, the account posted a substantial number of messages throughout 2018, 2019, and well into 2020. (Interestingly, the complaints reference a third person who was purportedly involved with the alleged crime, but the DOJ release doesn’t mention the party.)
Adding insult to injury – and drawing further attention to the scam – screenshots uploaded to the Twitter profile appear to show that Batista had posted to social media obnoxious messages like “They hate my life because they want it!” and “The only person that can change your life is you.!! [sic] Started from the bottom now we’re here. #lifegoals.”
The latter seems to have included an image of the alleged scammers at “work” in a garage and, beneath that, a different shot of Batista standing beside a new car, overlaid text reading “True definition of hard work!!!!!!”