Architect of multi-million-dollar education fraud involving scuba dive shops sentenced to years in federal prison
AUGUSTA, GA: A Florida man has been sentenced to seven years in federal prison after admitting his participation in a scheme to steal hospitality services by claiming to be part of a famed rap group.
Aaron Barnes-Burpo, 29, of Crestview, Fla., was sentenced to 84 months in prison by U.S. District Court Judge Dudley H. Bowen after pleading guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud, said David H. Estes, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. Barnes also was ordered to pay nearly $300,000 to 19 businesses defrauded in the scheme, and must serve three years of supervised release after completion of his prison term. There is no parole in the federal system.
Barnes-Burpo’s co-defendant, Walker Washington, 52, of Augusta, awaits sentencing in the case after also pleading guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud.
“For several weeks, these men defrauded multiple businesses by posing as famous musical artists and their retinue,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Estes. “Thanks to an alert hotel clerk, their phony hit parade came to an abrupt halt.”
In court documents and testimony, Barnes-Burpo and Washington admitted that they falsely portrayed themselves as affiliated with the Roc Nation production company and the hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan as early as September 2019, and used those fictitious representations along with fraudulent and stolen credit cards to rent luxury limousines and defraud hotels, caterers and production studios of thousands of dollars in goods and services in multiple cities, primarily in the Southeast.
The scam unraveled Nov. 21, 2019, when staff at the Fairfield Inn and Suites in Augusta became suspicious and alerted the FBI and the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office.
“Hopefully, some of the businesses that were defrauded by this scam will be able to recoup some of their losses as a result of this sentence,” said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “This is what happens when you seek a fleeting moment of fame at the expense of others. Neither law enforcement nor the community will tolerate it.”
The case is being investigated by the FBI and other state and local authorities, and prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorney Patricia G. Rhodes.
Barry L. Paschal, Public Affairs Officer: 912-652-4422