Drake Concert Scam Scuttled
Sherman Theater Director Richard Berkowitz told Pollstar local businesswoman Virginia Farrow-Williams was pitched by longtime friend Kihiem Muhammad, owner of Winnation Production Management in Virginia, to bring the hip-hop star and others to the 1,800-capacity venue in Stroudsburg in the Pocono Mountains May 27.
After consulting with known area promoter Lincoln Sessoms on the pitch, Farrow-Williams decided to promote the event herself. Farrow-Williams and Sessoms are known and respected by venue staff.
The scheme was allegedly furthered by “conference calls” including Farrow-Williams and Sessoms and individuals pretending to be Drake’s manager, Cortez Bryant, and Drake himself. All documentation provided by Muhammed appeared legit as well.
“This [scheme] was very elaborate. This wasn’t a simple ‘Let’s do a show,’” Berkowitz said. “They went through all the forgeries and impersonation. We had contracts and riders [and] all had Cortez [Bryant] on them and signatures. By the time it came to us, I didn’t have to ask them for anything. They knew what they had to bring us.”
[Farrow-Williams] didn’t do anything wrong. She had all the I’s dotted and T’s crossed.”
Berkowitz said once the venue contract was signed March 28, he authorized Ticketmaster to set up the onsale for April 1. Tickets prices were set at $50 for the first show, $52 for the second and sold out quickly.
However, that’s when the alleged scheme started to unravel, Berkowitz said. At that point, Muhammed allegedly told Farrow-Williams there was a chance to add Nicki Minaj to the second show if she could get Berkowitz to release some of the Drake ticket proceeds for an advance – a big red flag.
Berkowitz’s phone call to Drake’s agent, Robert Gibbs at International Creative Management, confirmed what was suspected: Drake is not on tour and the shows were bogus. The venue director gave the bad news to Farrow-Williams and prepared to cancel.
“After exploring all options … and seeing there was no opportunity to put anything together, our intent was to [cancel],” he said. “We were already starting to get our paperwork together to do a press release and to do refunds.”
Berkowitz said the state attorney general’s office was notified of the alleged scam. His press release has prompted phone calls from others who said they were caught in a similar scam with Muhammad and Winnation.
Despite losing the shows, Berkowitz can see a bright side.
“Our staff did a phenomenal job. We’re very proud of the work that they did,” Berkowitz said. “As a venue and promoter, your reputation is everything you have. Thankfully, we had these other procedures in place. It was bad but it wasn’t terrible.