A well-known Northwest musician and record producer was charged Tuesday with wire fraud for allegedly bilking investors out of hundreds of thousands of dollars promoting a bogus charity album he allegedly said would feature songs by Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam and Lady Gaga.
Kasey Anderson, the guitarist and frontman for the Portland-based alt-country band Kasey Anderson and the Honkies, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Brian Tsuchida in Seattle after surrendering to the FBI. The U.S. Attorney’s Office also unsealed a 45-page complaint charging Anderson with five counts of wire fraud.
He was released pending a preliminary hearing scheduled for Feb. 19 in federal court in Tacoma, although it is likely he will be indicted by a grand jury before that.
Anderson lives in Vancouver, Wash.
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Anderson’s attorney, Corey Endo of the federal public defender’s office, said her client had no comment.
Wire fraud is a federal felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Anderson and his band have turned out two successful albums and have toured with Counting Crows. Anderson and the Honkies were a featured artist at Bumbershoot 2011.
However, the FBI began an investigation last year into Anderson’s alleged efforts to raise money to produce a charity album to help fund the legal-defense fund for the so-called “West Memphis Three,” a trio of men convicted in 1994 of the supposed satanic murders of three children in Arkansas in 1993.
New evidence cast doubt on their convictions, and their cause was taken up by a number of musicians and celebrities. They were released in August after each serving more than 18 years in prison.
In 2009, according to the complaint unsealed Tuesday and a search warrant served in December for Anderson’s email accounts, Anderson convinced two groups totaling about 30 investors to give him more than $525,000 for the project. No album was produced and nearly $370,000 was lost, according to the charges.
The charges allege that Anderson had met some of the investors after they had helped him fund a successful European tour with The Honkies. In his original offering memorandum, he said he had confirmed participation from Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam, R.E.M., Tom Waits, Willie Nelson, the Foo Fighters, Johnny Depp and others.
The offering said the project would cost a total of $206,000, of which he would come up with half himself and tap investors for the other half. He predicted the album — which would be titled “Trapped Like a Ghost” — would sell 85,000 copies and be downloaded 100,000 times.
The investors would receive more than $500,000 back from their $103,000 investment within two years, Anderson said, according to the charges.
The complaint alleges that he created fake email addresses supposedly belonging to well-known music producers and agents and used them to convince the investors that the artists had committed to the project.
The album was set for release in 2010, Anderson allegedly told the investors. But as the deadline approached, he began making excuses, according to the complaint.
At one point, he said, it was delayed because Springsteen was considering doing not one, but two songs — the first a collaboration with Arcade Fire and the second with Lady Gaga, according to the complaint.
Later, he told the group a concert was being planned around the album as well.
He also put them off with ever-more-far-fetched promises, one being that Pearl Jam intended to be not only an act, but also serve as the “backing band” for Springsteen, Tom Petty and Neil Young, according to the search warrant.
In October 2011, Anderson forwarded to two of the investors songs purportedly recorded by Springsteen and Arcade Fire for the album. The FBI, however, found that the songs had been recorded by Springsteen in 1983 and 1995 and had appeared on previous albums, the complaint said.
The following month, 11 of the investors sued Anderson in U.S. District Court in Portland.
Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or firstname.lastname@example.org