Pennsylvania’s Sherman Theater is planning to refund money to hundreds of fans of the Canadian rapper Drake after the venue discovered that a pair of concerts by the artist scheduled for May were fakes and part of an elaborate scam.
In a lengthy statement on the venue’s Web site, which was also emailed to customers, officials described how a man named Kihiem Muhammad, also known as Michael Ellerbe, claimed to be in contact with the artist and his manager and allegedly scammed the theater and a local dentist, who was fronting money for the May 27 shows.
Muhammad allegedly produced fake contracts and documentation about the shows, but venue staff had already safeguarded customers’ money and began to see troubling signs that a scam was allegedly being conducted. They have contacted the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office about the incident.
“It has been a long, difficult weekend making all the necessary preparations to secure the funds for the consumers,” Sherman Theater President Richard Berkowitz said in a statement. “But we have a long, stable history in this business and many contacts who helped bring this process to a swift and equitable conclusion. It was an elaborate scheme that was caught and dealt with. Now we keep moving forward booking great events in the Pocono Mountains. The Sherman Theater looks forward to working with [local promoter] Lincoln Sessoms and [local dentist] Virgina Farrow-Williams in the future.”
According to the theater, Muhammad is a long-time family friend of Farrow-Williams, and he had approached her over the years about producing shows even though she did not have experience in the concert industry. Looking for help with the shows, Farrow-Williams reached out to Sessoms, also a friend, who gave advice but was not directly involved in the incident.
The Sherman Theater typically promotes its own concerts but was willing to use an outside promoter for the Drake shows, in part due to the alleged web of deceit that Muhammad spun over the course of the last month.
“The Sherman Theater always puts certain security measures in place on every show to ensure that artists and fans are always protected,” the venue stated. “After getting appropriate assurances, viewing contracts, and receiving deposits, [Berkowitz] authorized the show for sale and promotion. As the show was on sale certain conversations between Muhammad and [Farrow-Williams] were relayed to Berkowitz which raised red flags. Within hours Berkowitz was able to personally talk to Drake’s agent who confirmed that a number of promoters have been fooled by this and other scammers in regards to deposit monies for Drake, Nikki Minaj, and other clients.”
Although all customers will receive refunds, the theater estimates that the scam will cost the community roughly $400,000 in lost revenue for the local economy of Monroe County.
Fans who paid for tickets to the shows online or over the phone will receive refunds immediately, according to the venue. Those who paid for tickets at the box office can return to the box office with the tickets and identification on Saturday, April 9, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to receive their refund. The theater is located in Stroudsburg, PA. If a customer paid for the tickets at the box office by credit card, they must bring that credit card with them for the refund to be processed.