CEDAR RAPIDS — A Chicago man faces up to 20 years in federal prison in a fraud scheme that involved taking clients’ money to falsely book performers for concert venues in Eastern Iowa, as well as across the country.
Romel Murphy, 42, of Chicago, pleaded guilty Friday in U.S. District Court to one count of wire fraud. He admitted during the plea hearing that he devised a scheme to defraud by inducing clients to wire funds — for booking fees, deposits and expense payments — to him for appearances by artists who never showed up.
He also admitted to using the funds for his own expenses and with the intent to defraud.
Murphy owned and operated a talent booking agency — Real Talent Media Group, also known as Real Talent Marketing Group or RTMG. He booked artists for performances at concert venues across the country and in this federal jurisdiction — the Northern District of Iowa — according to the indictment.
He began working for “K.C.,” as identified in court documents, a national recording artist, as a road manager in October 2017 but was fired the next month.
Murphy then started the booking agency and referred to himself as the president and managing partner, according to the indictment.
When one of Murphy’s music industry contacts would request him to book a performance of a national recording artist, Murphy would assure the client he could book that performer, the indictment states. He would then draft and send a fraudulent contract to the client that had falsely been signed by the performer’s representative.
The contract would include a deposit and/or some other expense to secure the performer, according to the indictment. The client would sign the contract and wire the funds to Murphy. When the performances fell through, Murphy would promise to refund the client’s deposit. He would then create and send a false wire transfer form that would appear to show he sent a wire transfer, but it actually wasn’t initiated.
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During the plea, Murphy admitted to one such wire transfer he pocketed from an Iowa client, “R.E.,” as identified in the indictment, for $50,000 on April 9, 2018.
The indictment includes five other wire transfers from clients in Iowa, but there could be additional ones that aren’t included, according to court documents.
U.S. Magistrate Mark Roberts, during the hearing, said Murphy faces up to 20 years, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release after any prison time.
Roberts said he also may be ordered to pay restitution.
Murphy remains on previous release conditions pending sentencing. Sentencing will be set when a presentencing report is completed.
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