Image: Fenty

Rihanna was not slated to embark on a tour last year, and yet, that is precisely what a group of men were approaching investors about, a $19.5 million sum needed to for “Rihanna’s 2018-2019 Tour.” Allegedly authorized to raise capital on Rihanna’s behalf, Kwasi Asare, Mark Lamicka, James Ganiere, and Kevin Carzukefi set out to do just that, and to raise funds to stage Bruno Mars and Janet Jackson concerts, as well. The problem? The men do not have ties to the artists, and did not have the authorization to approach investors on their behalf.

That is what the Federal Bureau of Investigation asserts in a new complaint filed against Asare, Lamicka, Ganiere, and Carzukefi in a New York federal court. According to the filing, a lawyer for Rihanna’s entertainment company contacted the FBI in July 2018 “to report that the defendant Kwasi Asare, 39, and others were soliciting investors and potential investors in an attempt to raise $19.5 million with a return of investment of 22 percent ($24,095,363) by falsely claiming that they were authorized to raise capital for Rihanna’s 2018-2019 Tour.”

The attorney and other representatives for Rihanna denied knowing New Orleans-based Mr. Asare, and also told the FBI that Rihanna had not agreed to do the tour for which he was seeking investment, prompting FBI agent Matthew Galioto to contacted Asare posing as an interested investor. Over the period of almost a year, Asare was in contact with Galioto and “regularly solicited” him to invest up to $20 million “in various purported concert tours.”

In furtherance of an even larger scheme “to defraud investors and potential investors and obtain money and property by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises,” Asare told Galioto that he was not just working on Rihanna’s tour but was also authorized to raise money for Bruno Mars and Janet Jackson concerts. However, according to the complaint, “none of the artists had firm plans to even tour during the time period [at issue] or for the specific tours as described by Asare.”

The scheme was bolstered by Lamicka, and Ganiere, who – by way of their Beverly Hills-based Rio Vista Universal music agency – were allegedly organizing and promoting the concerts, as well as “co-managing Janet [Jackson] with Randy Jackson.”

Randy Jackson told the FBI that he does not know nor has he have an business dealings with the defendants; he also denied that Janet had committed to the 16-show tour that the defendants were promoting to investors. Bruno Mars’ manager similarly revealed to the FBI that he had “never agreed to do” the show that the defendants were raising money to stage.

In its complaint, the FBI sought arrest warrants for the four defendants, and the four men were arrested on Wednesday morning in California on fraud charges for conspiracy to defraud investors. They are expected to appear in court in New York next month in connection with their scheme to bilk investors of tens of millions of dollars.

*The case is U.S. v. Kwasi Asare et al. (E.D.N.Y.).