- Associated Press - Friday, November 13, 2015

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - A Maryland saxophone player who sought to participate in fundraisers around the country - in part to raise money for a fake cancer charity that prosecutors say benefited only him - has been ordered to repay a Montana organization nearly $5,700 for travel costs.

District Judge Dana Christensen on Thursday also sentenced Donald “Ski” Johnson of Silver Spring to five years of probation, including six months of home confinement.

Federal prosecutors said Johnson offered to do a saxophone performance and to play in a celebrity golf tournament tied to a July 2012 fundraiser by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Gallatin County in exchange for travel, food and lodging costs.

He also was accused of offering to donate two Grammy tickets to an auction if half the proceeds went to his “Jazz for Life Foundation.”

The tickets sold for $6,000, but before the organization collected payment, organizers were warned that Johnson might be scamming them because he had done something similar in another state, authorities said.

Johnson was convicted of wire fraud in July for misrepresenting himself as a Grammy-nominated saxophone player and offering the Grammy tickets in emails sent to the Montana charity.

The Montana fraud was part of an overall scheme of Johnson to defraud numerous organizations around the country, in some cases by promising the attendance of A-list celebrities, prosecutors said.

None of that information was presented during Johnson’s trial, but it was part of his sentencing hearing held in Missoula.

Johnson promoted, then cancelled, a 2011 cancer research fundraiser in Seattle after KOMO-TV questioned his promises that actors Michael Douglas and James Earl Jones were going to attend. Representatives of both actors said they did not know about the event, the station reported.

PayPal took a $9,300 loss when ticket buyers sought refunds after Johnson withdrew some of the money from his account, prosecutors said in a sentencing exhibit.

In November 2011, prosecutors said, the Hospice of Palm Beach County Foundation auctioned two tickets to the 2012 Grammys, offered by Johnson, for $12,000. The organization forwarded $5,500 of the proceeds to Johnson’s foundation.

The winner traveled to the event in February 2012 and walked the red carpet with Johnson, but he did not have any tickets and unsuccessfully tried to sneak her in, prosecutors said.

Grammy tickets cannot be transferred.

The hospice foundation lost nearly $14,000 while another golf tournament lost just over $11,000.

Court records said Johnson made similar proposals to celebrity charity events including a Christian school in Washington state, an animal shelter in New Jersey and the NFL Players Association.

Johnson’s foundation took in and spent nearly $150,000 between September 2010 and December 2013, but none of it went to any charity, prosecutors said.

Agents with the FBI and IRS interviewed Johnson in April 2014. He acknowledged he used “Jazz for Life” money for personal expenses, court records said.

A search of federal court records on Friday found no other charges filed against Johnson.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide