City of San Luis scammed in concert no-show
SAN LUIS, Ariz. — Organizers of a cultural festival here thought they were paying $45,000 to book a concert by Maná, one of Mexico's most prominent rock bands.
But Maná never showed up for the Barrier 2 Bridge festival in February, and now the city's attorney says the city and organizer of the event, San Luis Corporation for the Arts and Humanities, were the victims of a scam.
Maná's representatives have told the city that whomever the corporation dealt with, it wasn't the band. What's more, they say, the band has nothing to do with the supposed concert promoter to whom the money was sent.
The San Luis Police Department is investigating the matter, but City Attorney Glenn Gimbut says that, in any case, it could be difficult for the city to recover the money.
Barrier 2 Bridge was meant to showcase border culture and lifestyles through a series of conferences, exhibits and other events over a weeklong period. In the summer of 2011, the city council approved the transfer of $45,000 from the city's contingency to the corporation to hire band to perform in a concert to close out the festival.
The corporation sought to line up Maná, a band that started out in the 1980s in Guadalajara, Mexico, and went on to win multiple Grammy, Latin Grammy and Billboard music awards, plus tour throughout Mexico, the United States, South American and Europe.
In August, the corporation sent the money electronically as an advance payment to the bank account in Mexico of Gente PV, which had been recommended to the corporation as the booking agency for Maná, said Gimbut.
But the corporation failed to secure a final contract for Maná's performance, he said, and Gente PV did not respond to repeated phone calls and emails from the corporation's vice president, Michael Trend, seeking a refund of the money.
“Dr. Trend asked on several occasion for them to return the money, but it became clear that we were scammed, and an investigation was opened in January by the police department.”
Gimbut said he himself had received emails from supposed legal representatives for Gente PV promising payment, but the refund never arrived.
He said the city and corporation later found a contact for the actual representatives of Maná, who said they neither received a payment to perform in San Luis nor were represented by Gente PV.
Gimbut said Gente PV had been recommended to the corporation by Premier Entertainment, a booking agency in San Luis, Ariz. City Hall had used Premier on previous occasions to book artists for events in the Arizona border city, he said.
Premier, said Gimbut, had assured the corporation it could work with Gente PV to line up Maná for the Bridge 2 Barrier concert.
“They lied,” he said. “They said they had worked with them before. Later they admitted that they hadn't, that they had found Gente PV's name on the Internet.”
Based in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Gente PV says on its website that it has been in business more than 30 years as a booking agent for artists and entertainers.
Contacted by Bajo El Sol, a spokesman for Gente PV who declined to identify himself said he was aware of no negotiations having taken place between the agency and San Luis Corporation for the Arts and Humanities to bring Maná to the border city. But he raised the possibility that the corporation might actually have been dealing with one of a number of other agencies in Mexico that have improperly assumed the Puerto Vallarta firm's name.
Gimbut said the city has the option of suing Premier to recover the lost money, depending on whether the city council approves legal action. But a lawsuit would have the effect of suspending the police investigation, he added, and the city could not then pursue criminal charges in the event it prevailed in a civil suit.
Emmanuel Guzman, a co-owner of Premier, said his agency never misrepresented itself as being able to line up Maná for a performance in San Luis.
“We said that the agency that was in a position to help us in contracting (the band) had said it was the exclusive representative of Maná. We didn't receive any money. They deposited it directly with Gente PV.
“All we did was make contact with Gente PV — which is what the city asked for, to put them in touch with Gente PV, and vice versa. And at the time of payment, the city did that on its own. The way it was done and the precautions that were taken were completely at the discretion of the city.”
Gimbut said the city has the option of working with attorneys in Mexico to try to recover the money, but that would mean making an expenditure that would have to be approved by the council. Otherwise, he said, the payment by the corporation would have to be written off as a loss at the end of the fiscal year.