The Wu-Tang Clan has once again proved they most definitely aren't nothing to eff with after a Florida man pretending to be one of their members was sentenced to federal prison for defrauding several businesses out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. On Monday, 29-year-old Aaron Barnes-Burpo was sentenced to seven years behind bars and ordered to pay approximately $300,000 to 19 different businesses after pleading guilty to committing wire fraud, David Estes, The Acting U.S. Attorney For Southern District of Georgia, told the Washington Post.
“For several weeks, these men defrauded multiple businesses by posing as famous musical artists and their retinue,” Estes explained to Atlanta's ABC affiliate, WSB-TV of Barnes-Burpo and Walker Washington, a co-conspirator who has yet to be sentenced. "Thanks to an alert hotel clerk, their phony hit parade came to an abrupt halt.”
According to testimonies and court documents, the not-so-famous duo say 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," WSB-TV reported.
Throughout their time masquerading as members of the revered hip-hop collective and pretending to be associated with the Jay-Z-founded company, Barnes-Burpo and Washington defrauded several hotels, leaving a tab worth $45,000 at Atlanta's The Georgian Terrace and another worth $39,000 at the city's Hyatt Regency before being caught a few months later. On November 19, 2019, staff at the Fairfield Inn and Suites in Augusta, Georgia grew suspicious of the duo. Claiming to be from Roc Nation, Barnes-Burpo attempted to book a group of ten different rooms, adding a $2,500 worth of credit for one suite “for an artist and his entourage” at the hotel, the Washington Post wrote of the complaint. Although Barnes-Burpo gave the hotel a credit card number – "as long as they didn't charge it" – he said he would finance the stay via “certified check.”
This unusual payment situation, alongside an email showing that the credit card “was linked to a Kansas address," and the fact that these same individuals had attempted to stay at their establishment a few weeks earlier, apparently sparked suspicion in the hotel's director of sales, who proceeded to call Roc Nation. During this phone call, the company said that they had heard several complaints about the scam from different hotels, leading the hotel employee to notify the FBI. The next day, Barnes-Burpo and several others were detained while attempting to check in for their very expensive stay, after which he was ultimately arrested.
Lesson Learn'd? Don't impersonate the Wu-Tang Clan – or Jay-Z's employees.