San Luis questions $45,000 pegged for concert
SAN LUIS, Ariz. — Police are investigating a possible fraud against the city after a musical group failed to show up for a concert for which it supposedly received an advance of $45,000 in municipal funds.
San Luis Mayor Gerardo Sanchez confirmed that the organizer of the Barrier 2 Bridge festival, the San Luis Corporation for the Arts and Humanities, had sent the funds electronically to supposed representatives of the unnamed band in late 2011.
The festival was meant to showcase border culture and lifestyles through a series of conferences, exhibits and entertainment events taking place in and around San Luis over the course of one week last February.
In late 2011, the city council allocated $45,000 from its contingency fund to the corporation to make a payment in advance to bring the group to San Luis.
And in the weeks leading up to the festival, Barrier 2 Bridge organizers said a well-known group was being lined up to make a surprise appearance in a concert to help close the event. But the band — which organizers and city officials decline to identify — never showed up.
Sanchez said police began investigating the matter late in January after organizers learned the festival was not on the group's calendar.
The matter came to light until last week when the agenda for a city council meeting stated the council planned to discuss in executive, or private, session to how to recover the money.
After the meeting, Sanchez declined to comment on the matter, other than to confirm that money had been wired to what were believed to be representatives of the band. But he said the city plans to get its money back.
“It's a criminal investigation,” the mayor said. “I am very limited in what I can say. It is in process and it's going to continue.”
Everardo Martinez, president of the Corporation for the Arts and Humanities, said he was aware that negotiations were under way to book a group for the event and that money had been paid in advance to bring it to San Luis.
“There was a committee assigned specifically for the hiring of the artists. The negotiations were handled directly by Dr. Michael Trend. Afterwards I learned there was an investigation.”
Trend, the city's community development director and vice president of the corporation, declined to comment, saying the matter in under investigation by police.
San Luis police have not responded to calls for comment.
At the time it approved the transfer of city funds to the corporation, Sanchez said, the council did not know what artist or band the corporation planned to hire for the festival.
“This is not going to be taken lightly. We are going to look at all our legal options, and the law is going to be enforced in all aspects.”