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Concert promoter jailed for 20 years for $3m fraud

James Walker Watson Jr was convicted after conning investors while serving as executive producer of Texas' Southfork Music Festival

By James Hanley on 24 Jun 2024


A US concert promoter has been sentenced to 20 years in prison after duping investors out of around $3 million (€2.8m).

James Walker Watson, Jr, 68, of Orlando, Florida, was sentenced last week after admitting wire fraud in the Eastern District of Texas.

Walker was set to launch the Orlando Music Festival in July 2022, featuring acts such as The Jacksons, but was arrested weeks before, leading to the event’s cancellation.

According to Click Orlando, the fraud charge related to Watson’s role as executive producer of the Southfork Music Festival, which was held near Dallas between 2018 and 2020.

The court heard that from 2016 to 2020, Walker devised and carried out a scheme to commit fraud against multiple victims in the North Texas area by claiming he was a successful concert promoter and was looking for investors to give him money to stage events, including two purported concerts at the Southfork Ranch in Plano, Texas.

“Instead of using the funds for concert expenses, Watson made large cash withdrawals”

Walker took the victims’ cash but failed to return the investments as he had promised and would often tell them that, without further investment and involvement with his ventures, they would not receive any of their money back. The fraudulent activity resulted in a loss to victims of approximately $3m.

“Instead of using the funds for concert expenses, Watson made large cash withdrawals,” said prosecutors.

This case was investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by assistant US Attorney Jay Combs. Sentencing Watson on 20 June, District Judge Amos L Mazzant III announced restitution to victims would be determined at a separate hearing.

“The US Attorney’s Office will continue to bring charges against and prosecute those who commit fraud and steal money from victims in our district,” says US Attorney Damien M. Diggs. “These crimes often take advantage of individuals who trust the defendants with their hard-earned savings and investments, only to lose them forever. We appreciate the work of the FBI in investigating and partnering with the US Attorney’s Office to bring this defendant to justice.”

News 6 reports it was not the first time Watson had been arrested for fraud, citing court records that showed he had previously been convicted in 2022 for a $300,000 scam relating to activities surrounding the Sacramento Jazz Festival.

 


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