The Great Björk Scam of 2003
Some (or a lot) of you may have already heard this story, but it’s brand new to me. It involves an event that seemed almost too good to be real – “An Intimate Evening with Björk” – and in the end, was too good to be real, but not for the reasons one might think. Björk has been known to appear in small venues, but this one was different. This one had a poster produced for it by R.Black, an established illustrator of rock posters. This one was going to happen at a popular gay club in
We start with this report from the
By Gregory Alan Gross
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
And the moral of this story is: Don't mess with Björk fans.
A man suspected of defrauding as many as 400 people of as much as $16,000 [other reports state between $9,000.00 and $14,000.00 – Björk Zine] by selling tickets to a bogus Björk concert at a North Park night spot has been arrested in Hawaii, authorities said yesterday.
But it wasn't police investigators who tracked Alejo "Alex" Conate [aka DJ Liquid Groove] to the
It was the outraged fans of Björk, an internationally known singer with a fiercely devoted following in the underground dance music scene, who found him and tipped off the cops.
"We're in the process of extraditing him back," said
Conate is suspected of setting up a phony Web site with bogus e-mails from Björk to dupe a legitimate
He then sold realistic-looking tickets to ecstatic Björk fans at $40 apiece.
Said Borg: "I'm very anxious to have a chat with this young man."
So are prosecutors in
So, too, is Kevin Azero who, along with several of his friends, shelled out $80 for a pair of tickets to a concert that never was.
"He's been caught . . . really? Oh my God, that's really cool!" Azero said, adding. "I hope he still has my money."
Once it was known that the Björk appearance in
But it was a network of Björk fans – as well as the holders of those worthless tickets – who found him first, Borg said.
"People kind of went into an outrage over this," said Greg Horton, manager of the Off the Record music shop, who also bought a pair of the phony tickets.
They had help from Pollard's Web site, www.klubs.com, which posted a photograph of Conate on the Internet and urged anyone who had seen him to contact the site or The Flame.
"They have a communication system that rivals the CIA," Borg said.
Apparently, Conate was over in
Word got back to Pollard, who called
"We did find out where he was and I worked with the Honolulu Police Department Crime Stoppers," Borg said. "They did a good job."
Conate was arrested Wednesday and waived extradition, Borg said. His return to
Conate will be sentenced for the crime on July 22, but
Alejo Miguel Conate, 25, pleaded guilty on June 23 to grand theft.
Conate will be transferred to
Conate convinced promoter Bryan Pollard that he was a disc jockey and could deliver Björk to the Flame bar on
Tickets to the "show" were sold, and the defendant skipped town with $9,160, Pummill said.
Conate was arrested in late January in
Owners of the Flame have already paid back the vast majority of the ticket buyers, Pummill said.
Conate was ordered to pay $5,760 to the club and $1,960 to Pollard. The rest of the money will be held for customers who have not been reimbursed, the prosecutor said.
San Diego police Detective James Borg testified at an earlier hearing that Pollard told him that he first met Conate last November, as the defendant pulled a suitcase down a Hillcrest street.
Conate told Pollard that he worked as a DJ and knew the singer Björk, according to the detective, who said the promoter offered Conate a place to live because he was homeless.
Pollard and a bar manager got e-mails that they thought were from Björk officials and another performer confirming their scheduled appearance in
Conate disappeared in December with the money from the ticket sales from an unlocked metal box kept under Pollard's bed, the detective said.
Pummill said people interested in buying tickets to concerts should check a performer's Web site to see if a show is actually scheduled.
In early January 2003, the club Flame issued this statement:
"The Flame and Bryan Pollard are deeply sorry for any inconvenience this has caused but please remember that we too are very disappointed.”
According to a news item about the scam on MTV.com dated 4/14/03, Conate initially claimed that “he was guilty of no such thing in court Wednesday” and “denied charges of grand theft for allegedly selling $14,000 worth of tickets to a January 15 concert that was never booked.” What’s important, however, is that he was guilty, and when faced with the facts, had to plead guilty in court. In the final analysis, Conate was just a grifter, and not a very good one, because he was caught.
An interesting comment upon the denouement of the case was made by Tommy Salami (gotta love that name!), writer for
This is quite a story, and as I said, one that I had never heard before. Aside from the bizarre nature of this story, however, what’s with the reporter’s description of Björk as having “a fiercely devoted following in the underground dance music scene”? Underground dance music scene? Underground, in 2003? I guess he never read the piece in Entertainment Weekly that called Björk a “legend in her own time” and a “citizen of the world.