Prosecutors: Give concert promoter 17-plus years for fraud

MIAMI - A former South Florida concert promoter who staged tours for major acts such as the Rolling Stones, Elton John and Aerosmith deserves more than 17 years in prison for running his company as a $200 million fraud scheme, a federal prosecutor told a judge Thursday.

Jack Utsick, 73, should get a lengthy sentence for defrauding some 3,000 investors by running his Worldwide Entertainment Inc. company as a Ponzi scheme in which older investors are paid with money from new ones, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Gonsoulin said.

Gonsoulin said Utsick lied repeatedly to investors to hide steep losses from 1996 to 2005, instead promising handsome double-digit returns.

"This was not an accident. This was not a mistake. This was not confusion," Gonsoulin said at the hearing. "He lied from the beginning. He lied all the way to the end."

Utsick's attorney, Eric Lisann, said the promoter didn't intend to defraud anyone and had hoped to turn the company's fortunes around. By the time a Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuit effectively shut down Worldwide in 2006, the company was staging 1,000 shows a year and selling millions of tickets, Lisann said.

"He thought he was really building up something of value. He was going to overcome every obstacle that was out there," said Lisann, who recommended a lenient sentence of about six years.

Other major tours promoted by Utsick's company featured Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, Santana, the Riverdance show and Britney Spears. In addition, Lisann said, Worldwide owned concert venues and other properties around the world.

Utsick, who was extradited from Brazil in 2014, pleaded guilty in June to a mail fraud charge a few days before he was to stand trial on a multiple fraud charges.

U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga is expected to impose a prison sentence Friday, after hearing from defence witnesses including others in the concert promotion business and a doctor who has treated Utsick for bipolar disorder.

The judge also heard at Thursday's hearing from several investors, many of them former airline pilots, as Utsick had been, or friends of pilots. They urged Altonaga to be harsh in sentencing Utsick, who they portrayed as no more than a thief. A court-appointed receiver has been able to return only about $34 million of the $207 million in estimated losses to the investors, court documents show.

"He broke into my life with his lies and stole my money," said Vincent Brunasso of La Verne, California, who said he lost $300,000. "I just can't believe another human would do that to somebody."


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