Sun, Apr 26, 2015 - Page 7 News List

S Korean steel firm duped in Pharrell Williams gig scam

AP, PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania

A man scammed a South Korean steel company out of US$375,000 by claiming he worked with a Japanese talent agency that could help the company book a concert by musician Pharrell Williams, FBI agents in Pennsylvania said.

Sigismond Segbefia, of Maryland, faces multiple charges, including wire fraud, bank fraud and identity theft. He is also accused of stealing the identity of a western Pennsylvania postal worker and using it to bilk more than US$445,000 from women he met on dating sites.

At least one woman lost US$185,000 from December 2013 to August last year in the scam, the FBI said. Segbefia convinced her that he owned a medical equipment business and kept running into financial difficulties while trying to ship some of the devices to England, the FBI said.

Segbefia, a native of Ghana who is in the US legally, was arrested on Tuesday by US customs officials at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. He was released on bond, but ordered confined to his home until his appearance before a federal magistrate on May 14 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The 28-year-old Segbefia used a company he incorporated in Maryland in October 2013 called Eastern Stars LLC to make his various claims seem legitimate, the FBI said.

He used the company’s name when he told the woman about his medical supply woes, and he used it again, the FBI said, when he contacted Dosko Co Ltd, a steelmaker in South Korea.

The company wanted to book Williams for a concert in Seoul and wired US$375,000 to Eastern Stars, somehow believing it to be a company working with a Japanese booking agency, the FBI said.

The Japanese company was “provided with a contract and invoice in the name of Eastern Stars LLC,” which claimed to be Williams’ “legal representative,” the FBI said.

Segbefia further provided “fake documents, e-mail addresses and the names of Williams’ real management team” before the steel company wired the money to Eastern Stars in August last year.

The next day, Segbefia withdrew more than US$113,000 from an Eastern Stars bank account, but the bank froze the rest once Dosko got suspicious and tried to recall the US$375,000 wire transfer, the complaint said.

Dosko president Cho Sung-dae yesterday confirmed that the company has been duped and expressed relief that the suspect was caught.

He said that the concert was the first project for the company planning to expand into entertainment to diversify its revenues. He said the project was spearheaded by his son, David Cho.

David Cho said that he was introduced to a representative of the suspect’s company in September last year through a Japanese talent agency during a meeting in Tokyo. A few weeks later, the Japanese talent agency, which had been hoping to set up a Williams concert in Japan after his performance in South Korea, called David Cho and said the musician’s side needed a sum of “guarantee” money wired immediately to confirm his schedule in South Korea.

David Cho said he wired the money, but the Japanese agency later called him and told him it was a scam.

The talent agency that represents Williams had no immediate comment on the case.

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