San Luis officially writes off $50,000 lost in concert scam
SAN LUIS, Ariz. — The police department here launched an investigation in 2012 after learning the city had been ripped off $50,000 by scammers posing as concert bookers who could line up a prominent Mexican rock band to play for a local event.
The investigation so far has failed to lead to any arrests, and the San Luis City Council voted recently to formally write off the money as lost funds.
Mayor Gerardo Sanchez said the council was acting on the advice of its auditor, although that's not to say the city won't try to get the money back in the future if the scammers somehow get arrested.
“It was necessary to be able to close the books,” he said. “We can't leave that debt unresolved. Basically we are declaring it as a loss, even though the investigation has remained open in case we can get more leads and those people are found. But we can't sue someone who's not around.”
Recovering the money and catching the scammers is complicated by the fact that they were operating from Mexico.
In 2011, the city council transferred the money to the San Luis Corporation for the Arts and Humanities to contract a band to play for the city's Barrier 2 Bridge conference scheduled to take place in February 2012.
The corporation, in turn, wired the money to Mexico to what it thought was a concert booking agency as an advance to contract with Mana, a band that started out in the 1980s in Guadalajara, Mexico, and went on to win multiple Grammy, Latin Grammy and Billboard music awards.
But a final contract never materialized, and Mana never showed up for the conference. Last September, police launched an investigation into the case after the supposed booking agency failed to respond to repeated phone calls and emails from the city seeking a refund.
City Councilman Joe Harper said the city's only option now is to cut its losses and write off the money.
“Everything possible has been done to recover that money, and I don't think we can do anything more. And we can't continue throwing good money after bad. Eventually it's going to end up costing us more than we could recover.”
Sanchez said that while the scam cost the city a large sum of money, the loss was offset by savings elsewhere in the city budget. And he said the city has putting in place purchasing protocols that will ensure it is never again the victim of a scam.
“No one will be permitted to ignore those protocols. No transfer of funds of that size will be allowed to be made without those protocols being followed. For an expenditure of that size, there has to be a written contract, and in that case that wasn't one. Because the corporation was a group independent of us, we did not have a contract. We asked them for it, and they didn't have one either.”