A former concert promoter who staged hundreds of shows around the world by top acts such as the Rolling Stones, the Bee gees and Rod Stewart has been sentenced to more than 18 years in prison for running the business as a $US200 million fraud scheme.
US District Judge Cecilia Altonaga handed Jack Utsick, 73, close to the maximum sentence on Tuesday for his guilty plea in June to a mail fraud charge.
The sentencing caps a decade-long case involving Worldwide Entertainment Inc, a Miami Beach concert promotion firm handling some of the world’s biggest acts that prosecutors say defrauded nearly 3000 investors.
Altonaga was unmoved by pleas for leniency by Utsick and his lawyers, who contended he has long suffered from bipolar disorder that coloured his business judgement and he fully intended to turn the company’s fortunes around to repay his investors, many of them former airline pilots who lost their life savings or retirement money.
“It matters not, at the end of the day, whether on day one his intentions were good,” Altonaga said.
“There are far too many victims who suffered far too many losses. Too many lives ruined.”
Jack Utsick with Alicia Keys in 2005
Assistant US Attorney John Gonsoulin said Worldwide Entertainment operated as a Ponzi scheme, with no real profits despite thousands of concerts by acts including Tina Turner, Aerosmith, David Bowie, Elton John and Britney Spears.
Instead, Utsick was simply paying older investors with money from newer ones, all while sending out statements from 1995 to 2006 falsely indicating they were getting double digit returns.
“Ten years of lies about every single concert and every single tour making a profit,” Gonsoulin said.
“These are lies, again and again and again.”
Utsick started Worldwide after retiring as a pilot for TWA in part because of his bipolar disorder diagnosis, testimony showed.
In a rambling, tear-filled statement Tuesday, Utsick said he never sought to personally profit from others’ misfortune – indeed, there’s little evidence of exotic cars, yachts and mansions common in many such fraud schemes – and he could have eventually repaid everyone.
“I am not that person. I’m a good guy,” he said. “I always felt we could pay these people. To all the people – I’m so sorry.”