Music Festival Scammers Await Possible Decades-Long Sentences After Masterminding $1.35 Million Scheme

music festival scam
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music festival scam
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Two individuals are awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to charges stemming from a music festival scam. Photo Credit: Emiliano Bar

After pleading guilty to multiple charges stemming from a fake music festival – which was billed as boasting performances from Justin Bieber, Billie Eilish, and Post Malone – two individuals are each facing a maximum of more than 20 years behind bars.

Regional outlets including the Miami Herald penned early reports on the development, which the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida summarized in a formal release. According to the latter, 41-year-old Terronce Morris last week pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud as well as aggravated identity theft.

Morris’ co-conspirator, 36-year-old Blake Kelly, had in January entered a guilty plea; the aggravated identity theft charge stemmed from the pair’s use of Justin Bieber’s identity and signature “on false and fraudulent concert contracts,” per the same source.

According to the indictment, dated June of 2023, the $1.35 million scheme at hand initiated in December of 2019, when Kelly and Morris made contact with the scam’s concert-promoter victim, who was the president of two impacted companies.

Presenting themselves as friends and associates of Bieber, Morris and Kelly are said to have convinced the target to bankroll a 2020 festival, initially expected to span three nights, featuring the “Baby” artist (plus Post Malone, Billie Eilish, and others). In exchange, the badly misled promoter would receive half the resulting ticket, merch, and concessions profits, the crooks reportedly communicated.

Astonishingly, the two drove home the deception by having a presumed lookalike pose as Bieber during a FaceTime call with the victim – and by forging the two-time Grammy winner’s signature on a contract to play the nonexistent happening for a reduced $800,000. (The culprits attributed that three-day fee, besides the lack of involvement from Bieber’s team, to the artist’s performance being “somewhat of a gift,” the indictment shows.)

From there, a $200,000 “partial payment,” made out via cashier’s check to Bieber from one of the companies affiliated with the seemingly due-diligence-averse victim, rather predictably wound up in Morris’ own checking account, the indictment indicates.

Additional fraudulent contracts, evidently baseless conversations about the festival’s logistics, and more laid the groundwork for another $1.15 million to be wired to the scammers.

But the harebrained scheme looks to have come crashing down after the victim and one of his companies in early March of 2020 published a press release about the festival – with Bieber’s name featured prominently on the document. On cue, the act’s counsel promptly sent along a cease-and-desist letter, emphasizing that the London, Ontario, native most certainly hadn’t signed a contract to play the event.

(Of course, given the COVID-prompted pause on crowd-based events that would soon follow, the episode may have played out far differently if the release had been delayed even slightly. The happening itself was booked for late April of 2020.)

All told, the perpetrators dropped over $400,000 “on travel and luxury lodging” and around $102,000 “on food and luxury retail purchases,” among other things, per the indictment. Kelly’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 28th, while Morris is set to be sentenced on May 2nd.