Amazon Executive Conned Out of $165K
(WASHINGTON) -- An Amazon executive who was allegedly swindled out of $165,000 by a con man claiming to be Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ booking agent got a happy ending when the band performed at his wedding last month.
Tech executive Brian Valentine, 52, planned on surprising his bride-to-be with a performance by the "Free Fallin'" singer and his band when they wed in Washington last month. But according to a wire fraud complaint unsealed last week in U.S. District Court, the Amazon.com senior vice president was swindled by 44-year-old Chad Christopher Lund.
Lund allegedly operated a fake talent booking agency he called the Lund Live Booking Agency, which was complete with a phony website and email addresses, and claimed to book live performances by popular acts including RUN-DMC, Kansas and Ludacris.
The criminal complaint filed July 25 shows that Valentine -- who in the complaint detailed by FBI Agent Eric Petersen is referred to only as B.V. -- outlines how the exec was allegedly fleeced.
Valentine, the senior vice president of Amazon's Ecommerce Platform, reportedly became engaged in June 2010 to 39-year-old Gianna Puerini, also an Amazon employee. In an attempt to book Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers for his upcoming wedding Valentine first came across Lund's website and corresponded with him via email throughout October 2011.
In the emails, Lund detailed that he was able to "negotiate a price for the band's performance" and had gotten it "down to a price of $330,000 for the performance."
Valentine, who was previously an executive responsible for the development of Windows 2000 and Windows XP, was soon presented with an initial contract for the performance that contained the name of Petty's longtime manager Tony Dimitriades. Later, he was sent a contract by Lund, supposedly signed by Dimitriades, stating that he must receive half of the concert fee by October 30, 2011.
Believing the contract to be legitimate, on October 21 Valentine wire transferred $165,000 to Lund's Bank of America account.
The complaint states that in April 2012, as his wedding date approached, Valentine attempted to make contact with Petty's production manager, Chris Adamson, through an email address provided by Lund that he said could be used to "work out the logistical details" of the reception performance.
Valentine never made contact via this email address, because as Agent Petersen points out it the complaint, it was bogus.
Determined, Valentine then contacted Dimitriades who, according to the complaint, sent him a message saying he had no idea what he was talking about.
"We have never heard of Chris Lund or his agency. We are not aware of any deal for Tom Petty to play Seattle in July and I have never signed a contract for any such. It looks like you have been defrauded," he wrote. This prompted Valentine to hire a private investigator to track down Lund in Las Vegas. On April 17 Valentine received an email stating that the Lund Live Booking Agency was defunct and Petty and his band "does not wish to perform at your event."
In an April 24, 2012 email, Lund wrote to Valentine saying that he would return his money, but just needed a little time to get it together.
"I have every intention of getting your $165,000 back to you out of my own personal funds, but I ask you for a little patience, as that is a lot of money for me, to personally pull together," the message read. Lund even offered to pay the money back in installments, according to the complaint. But when Valentine responded, he then heard nothing back.
In May, the P.I. told Valentine that Lund had vacated his Las Vegas home. At that point, Valentine contacted the FBI, who arrested Lund in Illinois late last week, according to The Smoking Gun.
Calls to Valentine and the attorney for Lund by ABC News were unreturned.
But Valentine and Puerini's wedding story ends well. It appears after his fiasco, Valentine went through the appropriate channels, and was able to book the same band he and his bride were reportedly watching when he popped the question.
According to the Facebook page of wedding planning company True Color Events, Petty and his band played a full set at the couple's reception.
"The surprise performers at our wedding last night were none other than rock & roll legends TOM PETTY + THE HEARTBREAKERS!," the company posted to the social networking site. "Thank you to everyone who helped make this possible. Congrats G & B"
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