Federal prosecutors have charged one of the individuals behind the third-party fraudulent talent booking agency that Emory University used to attempt to book Migos, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Octaveon Woods, 26, of Decatur, Ill., was charged Feb. 6 with five counts of wire fraud and six counts of money laundering in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, according to a criminal indictment. Through his companies, which included Global Talent Agency (GTA), Woods allegedly falsely represented dozens of top musicians and celebrities and scammed entities, including Emory and the University of Missouri, out of $66,250 total, the indictment reads.
Woods has pleaded not guilty to all charges and posted a $10,000 unsecured bond Feb. 13.
“The Government has not yet provided me necessary discovery,” Woods’ attorney John Lovell wrote in a Feb. 16 email to the Wheel. “I am not informed enough to make a meaningful comment.”
The grand jury issued the indictment after it determined probable cause that Woods intentionally defrauded universities and other entities by pretending to represent popular entertainers and laundering money. Woods had claimed to represent performers such as Migos, Lil Yachty and Lil Uzi Vert, but the grand jury found that Woods did not represent any of those artists.
The grand jury charged that Woods operated Global Talent Agency, GTA Bookings Inc., National Artist Agency and Blueprint Group-Client Exchange CA Inc. Although Woods’ company websites state that his businesses were licensed and bonded, they were not.
“Woods allegedly convinced others to pay him thousands of dollars to ‘book’ these artists for concerts and festivals — when he had no relationship with the artists at all,” U.S. Attorney for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia Byung J. “BJay” Pak said in a Feb. 16 U.S. Department of Justice press release. “Woods immediately laundered the money to try and conceal his fraud.”
Last spring, Emory paid $37,500 to GTA to book hip-hop trio Migos for a Dooley’s Week concert, the Wheel previously reported. Less than two weeks before the concert, Emory discovered it had been duped. Emory arranged last minute for Ty Dolla Sign to headline the concert for at least $85,000, the Wheel previously reported.
“Emory University is pleased to learn that Octaveon Woods has been charged with money-laundering and wire fraud offenses involving multiple transactions,” Associate Vice President of University Communications Nancy Seideman wrote in a Feb. 16 email to the Wheel. “Emory cooperated in the federal investigation and is gratified for the partnership among the U.S. Attorney’s Office, U.S. Department of Education and law enforcement agencies that resulted in an indictment on these charges.”
More than half of the $66,250 total payments Woods fraudulently obtained came from Emory’s payment, according to the indictment.
If convicted, Woods could face fines of up to $500,000 and up to 20 years of imprisonment for each count of money laundering and wire fraud. Woods would also have to forfeit any money he received from the transactions. If the money Woods allegedly received cannot be located or retrieved, the United States may repossess Woods’ other property.
The U.S. Department of Education is investigating the case. A pretrial conference is set for Feb. 28 at 9:30 a.m.
Campus Life Senior Director for Communications Tomika DePriest directed the Wheel to Seideman. Student Programming Council President Tamara Ezzat (18B) directed the Wheel to DePriest for comment.
Woods and another individual identified as “M.N.” in the indictment typically requested an initial deposit of 50 percent of the total performance cost, the indictment reads. Woods and M.N. then entered into contract negotiations with the entities booking an artist, promising that the artist would perform at a set location on a certain date, the indictment reads.
Woods and M.N. asked that the money be transferred into a bank account which was under Woods’ control, and when the money was deposited, Woods would “quickly deplete” the funds in the account. Woods never intended to fulfill his contractual obligations, as he had no existing relationship with the artists he claimed to represent, according to the indictment.
The grand jury determined that Woods allegedly “did knowingly devise and intend to devise a scheme and artifice to defraud and for obtaining money and property by means of false and fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises,” the indictment reads.
Woods allegedly began committing wire fraud as early as April 15, 2015, according to the indictment.
WIRE FRAUD CHARGES
To execute the fraud schemes, Woods “transmitted and caused to be transmitted … in interstate commerce” via wire communications that included a March 10, 2017, wire transfer of $37,500 via Automated Clearing House (ACH) credit to Woodforest National Bank to secure a performance by hip-hop trio Migos.
A spreadsheet of SPC’s finances for the 2016-2017 academic year titled “SPEAKER’S FUND-A” obtained by the Wheel last year revealed that Emory paid $37,500 to GTA.
Woods also received a March 10, 2017, wire transfer of $12,500 to secure a performance for rapper Lil Yachty based on false GTA representation. Investigators found an April 19, 2017, email from a GTA email address to “N.V.” regarding a refund for the Lil Yachty performance.
On May 15, 2017, someone sent an email from a GTA email address to “I.B.” about a contract for a performance by rapper Lil Uzi Vert. Woods received a subsequent May 23, 2017, wire transfer of $16,250 from PNC bank to Regions Bank to secure a performance for Lil Uzi Vert based on false GTA representation.
The wire communications violated Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343 and Section 2, which prohibit schemes to defraud via wire communication in interstate or foreign commerce, according to the indictment.
MONEY LAUNDERING CHARGES
Woods, who was aided and abetted by other individuals, knowingly conducted and attempted to conduct financial transactions that unlawfully affected interstate and foreign commerce, according to the indictment. The transactions were “designed … to conceal and disguise the nature, location, source, ownership and control of the proceeds of … unlawful activity” and were conducted while Woods knew that the money involved in the financial transaction was obtained through illegal activity, the grand jury charged.
The unlawful financial transactions include: a March 11, 2017, withdrawal of $8,500 cash from Woodforest National Bank; a March 13, 2017, withdrawal of $14,000 from Woodforest National Bank; a March 14, 2017, wire transfer of $10,500 from Woodforest National Bank to Soy Capital Bank; an April 11, 2017, wire transfer of $10,000 from Fidelity Bank to Soy Capital Bank; a May 24, 2017, wire transfer of $10,000 from Regions Bank to Soy Capital Bank; and a May 24, 2017, cash withdrawal of $5,000 from Regions Bank.
The transactions violated Title 18, United States Code Section 1956(a)(1)(B)(i) and Section 2, which prohibits people from conducting financial transactions that involve the proceeds of unlawful activity, according to the indictment.
Alex Klugerman contributed reporting.
UPDATE (2/16/18 at 5:30 p.m.): This article has been updated to reflect Woods’ lawyer’s statement.