Concert Scammer Uses Tone Loc

An alleged scam artist who booked concerts by pretending to represent national acts at too-good-to-be-true prices now appears to be using Tone Loc to rip off small clubs across the U.S.

Bobby Bessone, Tone Loc’s manager and agent, heard about the ruse from Patty McMillan, owner of Red Dog Saloon in Milford, Mich., last fall.

McMillan received a phone call from a man named Robert Jennings about booking the performer in October for about $2,000. McMillan was in the process of doing so when she heard that a Tone Loc show at Bumpers in Westland had been canceled. She eventually tracked down Bessone.

"I told her we didn’t know anything about the show. Then she said another lady there had also been scammed," Bessone told Pollstar. "She gave me all the information for this Robert Jennings guy, so I called and left him a message.

"Not only did he call me back, he said, ‘I’ll book Tone Loc if I want to.’ I told him he wasn’t authorized to book Tone Loc, that I manage him and book his shows. He says, ‘I can do anything I want.’"

McMillan told Pollstar that Jennings was in regular contact with her via e-mail and phone and seemed knowledgeable about the business.

"He said Tone Loc was going to be in town – that he would be speaking at an event in Michigan – and the Red Dog was recommended to him by a member of his management team who had family in Milford. He was very professional and fast talking, like he was extremely busy," she said. "He said [Tone Loc] was looking to get intimate with the crowd … and they were also looking for a place to shoot their new video."

Jennings supplied a detailed contract and rider and discussed his plan to buy ads with a local Clear Channel radio station. But McMillan said she’d heard about the other Tone Loc show in Westland, so she called club owner Judy Johnson and compared notes.

"I’m retired from a technology company where I handled sales and I’m very familiar with multimillion-dollar contracts," McMillan said. "I looked over the rider … it was very detailed but something didn’t feel right. There were inconsistencies I couldn’t point out – [it was] intuition.

"Finally, I called Judy at Bumpers. She says, ‘You’re not going to believe this. This guy is a con artist. He ripped me off for $1,000.’"

McMillan said Jennings had an answer for everything when she questioned him about a different company name on the contract and his use of a Hotmail account when his company had a Yahoo account. The alleged scam artist claimed to be "subcontracting" for Tone Loc and that the different e-mail accounts were because of a "file problem," she said.

By this time, McMillan had sent Jennings a check for $400 to hold the show date. Not long after that, the Red Dog owner got some bad news.

"I got an e-mail from some fictitious person [saying] that Robert Jennings’ father passed away in Italy and he’d flipped out and couldn’t do the show," McMillan said. "[It said] ‘He’s been approved to send you a refund check for the money paid.’"

No refund check materialized and McMillan contacted the Detroit Free Press about the phony artist rep.

Bessone arranged for Tone Loc to perform at the Red Dog Saloon April 11th and at Bumpers April 12th at a reduced fee to both clubs.

But that wasn’t the end of it.

In March an alleged con artist used the name Tony Wilson to book a May 1st Tone Loc show at The Pub in Harrisburg, Va., for $1,000 plus 30 percent of the ticket sales with a $500 deposit. Owner Bill Royer said that despite his questions about it, Wilson sounded convincing.

"He said he had a show he was trying to book because Tone Loc was going to be in Richmond," Royer told Pollstar. "He proceeded to tell me what he had to offer and said his management team would spend a lot of money on advertising.

"He asked me who I deal with at the local radio station and said he deals with Clear Channel."

Royer, who has booked national acts at his club, said Wilson called him about twice a day during the first week of corresponding and went as far as to have the ad rep at the local radio station build the ads. Royer also said the detailed contract and rider appeared aboveboard.

"Everything he said sounded perfectly legit. I’ve dealt with [artist reps] before and it all sounded exactly the same," he said. "I was in the process of [sending] the deposit like he requested when I got the information that the whole thing might possibly be a scam.

"My DJ saw the story on the Internet and brought it to me. I read it and then contacted Patty [McMillan]."

Royer didn’t send the deposit and said he hadn’t heard from Wilson at press time.

"Everything [Wilson] told me is the exact same thing that [Robert Jennings] told her," Royer said. "This guy is definitely on top of his game."

Bessone said he’s willing to work with any club booker who may have been caught in the alleged scam to make the shows a reality.

"We have gone way down in price to help these people," he said. "This guy is very smart and very elusive."

Copies of the contracts, riders and related correspondence obtained by Pollstar show a boilerplate contract format with detailed and lengthy requirements on the artist rider that have been used in previous scams.

The names listed on the paperwork include Tony Wilson Management at a Chicago address, "James Lundell Tone-Loc Team" at a New York City address and Denise Crown.

As previously reported by Pollstar, the buyer is instructed to overnight payments to various names including Carey Zermeno, David Wilson and Michael Robertson at a Chicago address.

Other artists’ names used in the alleged scams so far are Axl Rose, Poison, Bret Michaels, Jani Lane, Ronnie James Dio, Lita Ford, Alice In Chains, David Lee Roth, Great White and "Weird Al" Yankovic.

Other aliases (with spelling variations) that have turned up in the last two years involving the phony offers are as follows: Michael Robertson, John Byrnes, John Bryant, Bobby Jenks, Tom Porter, Tom Peterson, Tom Bennett, Michael Saltzman, David Wilson, Bill Cantor, Gary Buck and Doug Goldstein with addresses in Chicago, New York, California and Florida.