Judge: Guilty plea in Hawaii concert scam stands
HONOLULU (AP) — A North Carolina man will not be allowed to take back his guilty plea to scamming the University of Hawaii out of $200,000 for a Stevie Wonder concert that never happened, a judge ruled Monday.
Marc Hubbard requested to withdraw a guilty plea to wire fraud he made in 2016, when he said he lied about being able to bring the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer to Hawaii for a concert. In 2012, the university paid a $200,000 deposit, began selling tickets and then learned neither Wonder nor his representatives had authorized a show. The incident embarrassed the school and prompted investigations.
In court documents Hubbard said he is innocent and was coerced into pleading guilty because he feared prosecutors would reveal he cooperated against East Coast mobsters. Prosecutors denied any coercion and said while he did offer to cooperate against purported organized crime figures his help was of no use.
Hubbard doesn’t meet any of the exemptions in law for withdrawing a guilty plea, U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi said in her ruling after hearing arguments from lawyers on both sides, as well as Hubbard’s testimony.
Hubbard “150 percent believed” he was dealing with Wonder’s management, when he made the deal, he testified Monday. He said he learned after his arrest that it was a fraud. He pleaded guilty to protect his family, he said: “I was just in a really tight spot at the time.”
Kobayashi postponed his sentencing last month because he filed his sealed motion the day before she was scheduled to sentence him. Kobayashi later ordered the motion unsealed at the request of a prosecutor and The Associated Press.
In denying his motion, Kobayashi said there was nothing ambiguous in the questions he was asked during his 2016 guilty plea hearing and the answers he gave. She noted that at the time she asked him if he agreed that relying on his false statements, the university wired $200,000 and he replied “yes.”
Hubbard is already serving more than six years in prison for a concert investment scam in Pennsylvania.
Kobayashi scheduled his sentencing in the Hawaii case for next week.