Berkeley man sentenced to 21 months in prison for Mariah Carey scam

It turns out that even Mariah Carey’s reputation failed to prevent covering up a recent extortion scheme orchestrated by a Berkeley resident who scammed a New Jersey investor out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Antywan Ross, 44, former head of the music promoter company The RDA Group LLC, was sentenced by the United States District Court of New Jersey on June 6 to 21 months in federal prison on one count of wire fraud for sending false sponsorship letters and emails to pretend that he was holding a series of concerts in the Middle East featuring the “Heartbreaker” singer.

Ross, a music industry promoter who touted fake business relationships with music stars such as Destiny’s Child and Ludacris, will also have three years of supervised release and will have to repay the $325,404 he extorted from J. Giovanni Baquerizo, who founded the Maywood, N.J., investment firm Alec Charles Capital LLC.

A former Atlanta, Ga., resident who now resides in Berkeley, Ross founded The RDA Group LLC on Jan. 9, 2007. But the company was later dissolved by the Secretary of the State of Georgia on Sept. 12, 2010, due to its inability to file for annual registration in accordance with Georgia law, according to state records.

Although it was involved in dissolving The RDA Group LLC, the Office of the Secretary of the State of Georgia takes no responsibility for Ross’s actions and does not investigate cases or proceedings involving members of corporations filed with their office.

“We simply receive the papers for corporations to form — we don’t get involved in disputes between members of corporations,” said Matthew Carrothers, a spokesperson for the Office of the Secretary of State of Georgia. “We don’t have statutory power to investigate allegations of fraud that a member of the corporation may have committed.”

From around August 2008 to January 2009, Ross claimed to promote a series of Mariah Carey concerts taking place in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates. Through his efforts, he was able to secure roughly $330,000 in funds from Baquerizo, promising the money would be repaid with interest within 45 days, according to court documents.

To further convince Baquerizo sponsorship money had been committed, in October 2008 Ross found an escrow agent in New York who would not release the funds unless Ross provided proof of $1 million in sponsorship funds — which he later backed up with falsified letters written on law firm stationery that made it seem as if $10 million in sponsorship money was made available, court documents stated.

When the funds were released from the escrow agent, instead of using the money to stage a legitimate concert, Ross bought a car and used the remainder of the money for personal benefit, according to the federal indictment.

“(Ross) sent an email to the escrow agent directing her to release the investor’s money,” the indictment states. “Instead of using that money to pay for purported expenses related to putting on an international concert, Ross used the majority … for his own benefit, including the purchase of an automobile. He also admitted that the Mariah Carey concerts in Dubai never took place and that he never repaid the investor.”

Baquerizo did not respond to requests for comment.

According to Rebekah Carmichael, spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Newark, N.J., Ross pleaded guilty to fraud on July 8, 2010, and was allowed to remain free on a $250,000 bond until his June 6 sentencing.

Representatives from Ross’s family declined to comment.