Rap impostor sentenced to 7 years in prison

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Scam unraveled at Augusta hotel, where 10 rooms were booked

A Florida man was sentenced to seven years in federal prison after admitting his role in a scheme to steal hospitality services by claiming to be part of a famed rap group.

Aaron Barnes-Burpo, 29, of Crestview, Florida, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Dudley H. Bowen in Augusta after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, said David H. Estes, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia.

Barnes-Burpo also was ordered to pay about $300,000 to 19 businesses defrauded in the scheme. He must serve three years of supervised release after completion of his prison term. There is no parole in the federal system.

Barnes-Burpo’s co-defendant, Walker Washington, 52, of Augusta is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to the same charge.

“For several weeks, these men defrauded multiple businesses by posing as famous musical artists and their retinue,” Estes said in a news release. “Thanks to an alert hotel clerk, their phony hit parade came to an abrupt halt.”

In court documents and testimony, Barnes-Burpo and Washington admitted they falsely portrayed themselves as being affiliated with the Roc Nation production company and the hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan as early as September 2019.

They used those fictitious representations along with fraudulent and stolen credit cards to rent luxury limousines and defraud hotels, caterers and production studios of thousands of dollars in goods and services in multiple cities, primarily in the Southeast, according to the news release.

“For several weeks, these men defrauded multiple businesses by posing as famous musical artists and their retinue. Thanks to an alert hotel clerk, their phony hit parade came to an abrupt halt."

- David H. Estes, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia

The scam unraveled Nov. 21, 2019, when staff at the Fairfield Inn and Suites in Augusta became suspicious and alerted the FBI and the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office.

“Hopefully, some of the businesses that were defrauded by this scam will be able to recoup some of their losses as a result of this sentence,” said Chris Hacker, special agent in charge of FBI Atlanta. “This is what happens when you seek a fleeting moment of fame at the expense of others. Neither law enforcement nor the community will tolerate it.”

The crew of Rolls Royce-riding identity thieves who posed as rap industry figures scammed hundreds of thousands of dollars from some of the South’s most exclusive hotels, prosecutors say.

The group told hotel workers they were with the entertainment firm Roc Nation and listed the rap group Wu-Tang Clan with at least one of the hotels, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta.

The scam unraveled at a Fairfield Inn and Suites in Augusta, where 10 rooms were booked, supposedly for an artist and his entourage. The reservation listed Roc Nation and the Wu-Tang Clan, prosecutors said. But the staff suspected a scam, and the hotel sales director called Roc Nation and was told the company was not associated with the men booking rooms.
The scam unraveled at a Fairfield Inn and Suites in Augusta, where 10 rooms were booked, supposedly for an artist and his entourage. The reservation listed Roc Nation and the Wu-Tang Clan, prosecutors said. But the staff suspected a scam, and the hotel sales director called Roc Nation and was told the company was not associated with the men booking rooms.

The Georgian Terrace Hotel in Atlanta — where cast members from “Gone With The Wind” stayed during the film’s Atlanta premiere — was left with a $45,000 unpaid bill. Representatives of the Hyatt Regency Atlanta told the FBI the group walked away without paying its $39,000 tab.

They had been driving a Roll Royce Phantom rented from A-National Limousine, which reported a loss of nearly $60,000.

The group also used two Atlanta recording studios, which lost a total of more than $17,000, the complaint states.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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