Louis J. Pearlman (b. 19 June 1954) is best known as a manager for boy bands
like the Backstreet Boys, 'N Sync and US5. In recent years, allegations that he
is a con man have arisen. Pearlman is originally from Flushing, Queens, New
York, USA, most recently residing in Orlando, Florida. His whereabouts had been
unknown from about December 2006 until June 14, 2007, when he was arrested in
Indonesia. He was then turned over to US authorities and brought to Guam to
begin facing charges that he defrauded investors of over three hundred million
Pearlman is a first cousin to Art Garfunkel. Lou played guitar for a band in his
hometown when he was in his teenage years. When success in the music industry
proved elusive, he turned his attention to aviation. Allegedly Pearlman has had
past associations with alleged penny-stock swindlers and earned his first big
bucks as a beneficiary of one of the longest-running pump-and-dump schemes of
After he took his air charter company, Airship International, public in 1985,
Pearlman became personally and professionally close to Jerome Rosen, a partner
at small-cap trading outfit Norbay Securities. Based in Bayside, Queens, and
frequently in trouble with regulators, Norbay actively traded Airship stock.
This sent Airship's stock price consistently higher, enabling Pearlman to sell
hundreds of thousands of shares and warrants at ever-higher prices. However,
Airship was reporting little revenue, cash flow or net income. In return for
keeping his penny stock liquid, Pearlman allegedly paid Rosen handsome
commissions, according to a mutual friend, that reached into "the tens of
thousands of dollars" per trade.
It was Trans Continental Airlines (an aircraft leasing company that allegedly
leased jets to only major world airlines and allegedly flew limited charter
flights for high profile entertainers) that would eventually lead Lou Pearlman
to his involvement in the music industry again. Trans Continental Airlines also
appears to have been the vehicle for a major fraud.
On December 27, 2006, the State of Florida Office of Financial Regulation (OFR)
- after a yearlong investigation - filed a complaint against Pearlman and his
companies for a huge savings / investment program fraud, alleging Pearlman has
been operating a record-length Ponzi Scheme, using falsified FDIC documents to
gain his investors' confidence.
Pearlman, through his facade enterprise, Trans Continental Airlines, promised
investors an FDIC-secured savings program that offered a generous, but
reasonable, 6-8 % return. This far-from-suspicious offering, backed by his
celebrity status and regular distributions of new investor money to established
clients, allowed Pearlman to continue swindling over 1800 investors, including
friends and family, for over twenty years. Even earlier investigations by
Florida authorities were put to rest by false paperwork and the smooth
assurances of Pearlman and his attorneys.
Consequently several banks and investors filed suit against Pearlman, for not
paying his debts and for deception. Banks apparently loaned money to Pearlman
based on falsified documentation from a Florida certified public accountancy
Cohen & Siegel, that apparently also was a fabrication.
"At worst, TCA's financial statements are a fiction, purporting to have been
prepared by a non-existent firm to deceive Integra," Integra Bank of Indiana
wrote in a complaint. "At best, the financial statements were prepared by
unlicensed accountants who either failed to properly audit TCA's financial
statements, received misleading financial information from TCA, or both."
Pearlman's companies were taken over by a court appointed receiver, having
receivership over the assets of Trans Continental Airlines, Inc., Trans
Continental Airlines Travel Service, Inc., Trans Continental Enterprises, LLC.,
Louis J. Pearlman Enterprises, Trans Continental Records, Trans Continental
Talent, Fashion Rock, Trans Continental Travel Service, Trans Country music
Group, Trans Continental Studios, Trans Continental Aviation and Aegis
Current figures indicate the amount involved may be close to US$500,000,000. If
this figure proves accurate, Pearlman's Ponzi scheme would be the largest in
history, exceeding that of Reed Slatkin.
No criminal charges have been filed yet.
Boys, boys, boys!
After years of occasionally chartering a jet through Trans Continental Airlines,
according to Pearlman's biography on his former website, he received a charter
request from the pop musical group, New Kids on the Block. After learning that
these five young kids had made hundreds of millions of dollars in record, tour
and merchandise sales, Louis Pearlman started Trans Continental Records.
Allegedly the first band to sign to Trans Continental Records, the Backstreet
Boys sold 65 million records worldwide, hitting gold and platinum in 45
different countries and repeating their success with the band 'N Sync, which
sold over 56 million records globally..
Also Pearlman's involvement in Chippendales dancers predated his boy-group
success. "I got involved with Chippendales before Backstreet and it's
Chippendales and New Kids on the Block that gave me the idea to pursue
Other boy bands managed by Lou Pearlman are/were O-Town (created for the ABC/MTV
reality TV series Making the Band), Lyte Funky Ones (LFO), Take 5, Natural and
US5. Further artists on the Trans Continental's label include Aaron Carter,
Jordan Knight, Sean van der Wilt, C Note, and Smilez & Southstar. Pearlman owned
an entertainment complex in Orlando, including a recording studio (Trans
Ongoing investigations show that previous and other Pearlman enterprises were
prefinanced / kept up with funds he defrauded from investors and banks.
All musical acts who have worked with Pearlman have sued Pearlman in Federal
Court for misrepresentation and fraud. All cases against Pearlman have either
been won by those who have brought law suits against him, or have been quietly
settled out of court.
The Backstreet Boys sued Pearlman because they felt their contract, under which
Pearlman collected as both manager and producer, was unfair. Fellow boy band *NSYNC
had similar issues with Pearlman... according to VH1's 100 Most Shocking Rock &
Roll Moments, BMG claimed nearly all of the three hundred million dollars *NSYNC
had made from record and merchandise sales, leaving seven million dollars for
the members of the band. Frustrated, *NSYNC attempted to leave RCA and sign with
competitor Jive Records, a migration which Pearlman hoped to prevent with legal
action. Both BMG and Pearlman's lawsuit and the countersuit filed by *NSYNC were
settled out of court.
Teenage pop star Aaron Carter (then 14) filed a lawsuit in 2002 that accused
Pearlman and Trans Continental Records of cheating him out of hundreds of
thousands of dollars and of racketeering for a deliberate pattern of criminal
activity. The suit was later settled out of court.
"They find talented kids, sign them, watch them get successful, don't pay them,
wait for them to sue and then settle the cases," Yanger said. "It is not an
Looking back at those days, 'NSYNC star Justin Timberlake said 24 September 2006
in an interview with the magazine Rolling Stone: "I was being monetarily raped
by a Svengali".
Lou's most published oneliner: "People keep asking me, when is it all over?" he
said. "And my answer is, when God stops making little girls, it's over."
Among Lou Pearlman’s latest activities were controversial massive talent
scouting (from Options Talent up to Talent Rock), and producing RTL reality
TV show "Big in America" in Germany. Boy band US5 appears to have been
assembled on that show. It appears US5 management, Berlin-based company Triple M
Music , may be the only running business that Pearlman is still actively
Talent scouting scandal
In September 2002 Louis Pearlman purchased the Internet oriented talent scouting
company Options Talent, allegedly without being informed by Options Talent CEO
Mark Tolner about the criminal pasts of some of that company's officials, Ayman
Ahmed El-Difrawi (aka Alec Defrawy / Defrawi) and David Elliott. Since
then Options Talent went through several name changes, like Trans Continental
Talent TCT, Wilhelmina Scouting Network WSN (now Web Style Network).
The New York State Consumer Protection Board did issue a consumer alert about
WSN / TCT due to many consumer complaints. In Florida about 2000 complaints
were filed with the Attorney General and the Better Business Bureau. A lawsuit
was in preparation by Assistant AG Jacqueline (Jackie) Dowd, as a result of a
two years investigation. The case never made it to court. Few month's after
Dowd's unexplained replacement by John MacGregor the inquiry was discontinued
because in MacGregor's opinion the probe was unable to find "any substantial
After WSN's questionable bankruptcy, Pearlman started Fashion Rock (now
Talent Rock) in September 2003, at that time with Tolner (CEO), Defrawy and
several other former WSN staff members still involved.
In 2004 Pearlman started an aggressive campaign against some websites that
contain criticism (facts and opinions) of his methods of conducting talent
search. About a dozen identical sites have been erected by Pearlman "to attack
critics". June 2004 Fashion Rock, LLC filed a civil suit for defamation
against a number of individuals and companies. The cases against
co-defendants Bill Rosenberger and Canadian anti-consumer-fraud expert Les
Henderson have been dismissed, the suit against co-defendant Roberto Villasenor
is still in process. So far no evidence has been presented by Fashion Rock.
Defendants allege the suit is frivolous, only meant to harass and to hurt them
Les Henderson has filed a libel suit against Pearlman and several others. The
suit is in progress. Henderson is the author of the book "Under
Investigation" about the WSN affair and the questionable way the Florida
governor ( attorney general at the time ) Charlie Crist's office handled
Trans Continental Airlines savings program fraud investigation
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November 14, 2006, WFTV.com reported Frank Vazquez, vice president of operations
for Trans-Continental Companies, took his own life. The article mentioned
Florida state investigating a savings program offered by the company. 
December 17 St. Petersburg Times wrote the program was offering "high yield at
no risk", and was presented as a way to participate in a special deal for Trans
Continental Airlines employees. Investors were notified by Trans Continental
Airlines that it stopped processing withdrawals from its "Employee Investment
Savings Account" and the company wrote in a form letter to "anticipate a
resolution soon after the first of the year". After getting sued by the
state Office of Financial Regulation, the company agreed to halt all sales,
while denying the charges.
27 December 2006 the Florida Office of Financial Regulation filed the
'Complaint' (published February 5), alleging Pearlman has been operating a
scheme resembling to a Ponzi, using falsified FDIC documents to lure investors.
IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE NINTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT IN AND FOR ORANGE COUNTY,
FLORIDA CIVIL DIVISION STATE OF FLORIDA, OFFICE OF FINANCIAL REGULATION,
Plaintiff, vs. CASE NO.: 48-2006-CA-011136-O TRANS CONTINENTAL AIRLINES, INC.,
TRANS CONTINENTAL AIRLINES TRAVEL SERVICE, INC., TRANS CONTINENTAL ENTERPRISES,
LLC a/k/a TRANS CONTINENTAL ENTERPRISES LLC, LOUIS J. PEARLMAN, ROBERT
FISCHETTI, and MICHAEL CRUDELE, Defendants, and, LOUIS J. PEARLMAN ENTERPRISES,
INC., TRANS CONTINENTAL RECORDS, INC., TC LEASING, LLC, TRANS CONTINENTAL
TALENT, INC., FASHION ROCK, LLC, TRANS CONTINENTAL TRAVEL SERVICE, INC., F.F.
STATION, LLC, TRANS COUNTRY MUSIC GROUP, INC., TRANS CONTINENTAL STUDIOS, INC.,
TRANS CONTINENTAL AVIATION, INC., AEGIS CONSULTING, INC., and KRISTIN FINGER,
Consequently several banks and (groups of) private investors filed suits against
Lou Pearlman for failing payments on loans and
In their suit (filed 12/28/2006) Integra bank also calls Pearlman a deadbeat
"While Pearlman's public persona is that of a man whose life seems lifted from a
Horatio Alger story - a life filled with glamour, glitz and financial success
beyond most peoples' dreams - Integra's recent dealings with Pearlman and his
first company, TCA, would indicate that this outward mask conceals the
fundamental economic instability more common to a Ponzi scheme."
January 22. The Orange County Sheriff's Office seized Pearlman's 1968 Gulfstream
jet and turned it over to the First International Bank & Trust.
"Two additional loans -- each for $10 million -- were to be used to build an
entertainment complex and develop three television shows with MTV, among other
January 27. Some people who worked for Pearlman have been laid off. Office
equipment has been removed from Trans Continental headquarters in downtown
January 28, 2007 "Pearlman's money woes follow him downtown"
February 1, 2007. Filed in the Circuit Court Orange County Florida: Case
48-2007-CA-001180-O BANK OF AMERICA NA, .vs. FASHION ROCK LLC, ET AL
February 2, 2007: Florida regulators said Pearlman's Trans Continental Savings
Program is a massive fraud and the state takes over the company. Most of the at
least $95-million which was collected from investors, is gone. Orange County
Circuit Judge Renee Roche ordered Pearlman and two of his associates, Robert
Fischetti and Michael Crudelle, to bring back to the United States "any assets
taken abroad which were derived from illegal transactions". "The court ordered
receivership froze company assets as the state investigation
February 2. Claims have grown to more than $130 million, not including $33
million judges have recently ordered him to pay on previous lawsuits. But
according to Pearlman's brilliant theory the claims of Florida state, the banks
and the investors are nothing but lies.
In a November interview with The Associated Press, Pearlman blamed the lawsuits
on people trying to cash in on his success. "I know a lot of people come at me,
as a deep-pockets theory," he said then. "The more successful you get the more
lawsuits you get, unfortunately."
February 5. Text version of the 'Complaint' by the Florida Office of Financial
Regulation (filed 27 December 2006) is published.
February 6. More than $317 million in claims now.
Receiver Jerry McHale said that just on "my first pass-through" dealing with
investors' communications and corporate records of Trans Continental Airlines,
he identified $204.5 million in claims from investors who put money into the
company's "Employee Investment Savings Accounts" and another $113 million into
"Bank records indicate the investors' deposits of approximately $118 million
have been utilized to pay earlier investors both dividends and cash withdrawals,
as is the case in Ponzi schemes," A. Gregory Melchior, the agency's assistant
general counsel in Tampa, wrote in the complaint filed Friday in state Circuit
Court in Orlando.
February 7. The investigators have taken over Pearlman's Trans Continental
company website and are now using it to convey information to investors and
media. Currently (2/7/07), a full copy of the court order is posted, as is
contact information for the investigators. More information is to be posted over
the coming weeks.
Press: $317M in investor claims could rival state record for Florida.
February 9. State shuts down Fashion Rock (also known as Talent Rock).
February 10. According to records filed by the Office of Financial Regulation,
many of Pearlman's misrepresentations were first brought to the attention of
authorities years ago.
A federal investigator suspected as early as 1995 that Lou Pearlman's investor
program might not be as secure as the mogul claimed -- and asked Florida
officials to investigate. But despite that and other red flags raised in 1999,
2001 and 2004, government authorities did not seek to shut down the
Orlando-based investment program until late last year.
February 11. Investors are left holding the bag for $317-million.
February 12. A lot of the missing millions is New York money.
February 15. The Federal authorities served warrant on Pearlman's companies,
conducted by various agencies, the state of Florida, FBI, the IRS and the FDIC.
Some of Pearlman's attorneys filed a court motion to withdraw from representing
Pearlman's property manager has stayed on to continue paying utility bills and
such, but told Eyewitness News he has not been paid for three months. He also
said that Pearlman's company intercepted the most recent rent payments from the
tenants there and disappeared with that money.
February 15. Bob Whitby told you so.
Old news, amigos. We told you three years ago that Pearlman was a corpulent
pusbag who would rip off anybody and anything within reach of his scaly
appendages. But did you listen? No, you did not.
February 16. Boy-band guru hasn't been seen, his home is for sale and now he
faces a criminal probe.
Due to AP and Reuters catching up, the story is now in print worldwide.
Action site. A victimized couple recently erected website
scammedbypearlman.com. The site offers sample letters to mail to elected
officials in hopes of raising awareness and obtaining help. It also feature a
forum, links, and updated news.
February 21. But When Will They Do Something About That Music?
February 21. Lou Pearlman resigns from Trans Continental Airlines. 
Troubled Orlando entrepreneur Lou Pearlman has resigned from his
equally-troubled company Trans Continental Airlines, according to a document
filed in U.S. District Court in Orlando. In the court record, which appeared
this week in a suit filed by Integra Bank of Indiana, one of Pearlman's
attorneys declared that he "is not an officer or director any longer, of Trans
Continental Airlines and could not answer on behalf of Trans Continental
February 21. FF Station LLC, Lou Pearlman's company that owns the Church Street
Station, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Green said the intention of the bankruptcy action is to get FF Station sold off
to a new developer as quickly as possible so that the complex and its tenants
may get back to normal business as soon as possible.
February 22. Pearlman and his executives have left, and numerous businesses that
were headquartered at his Trans Continental Enterprises downtown have largely
been turned over to court-appointed authorities.
Also Tuesday, Pearlman lost some of his stake in his two big boy bands, 'N Sync
and Backstreet Boys. Washington Mutual Bank was awarded a $9.8 million interest
in Pearlman's ownership of 'N Sync Productions Inc. and Backstreet Productions
Inc. in a judgment entered in Seminole County.
February 28. 10 more of Lou Pearlman's companies were put under the control of a
court-appointed administrator to protect any remaining assets. The receivership
now includes Trans Continental Airlines, Trans Continental Airlines Travel
Service and Trans Continental Enterprises, Louis J. Pearlman Enterprises, Trans
Continental Records, Trans Continental Talent, Fashion Rock, Trans Continental
Travel Service, Trans Country music Group, Trans Continental Studios, Trans
Continental Aviation and Aegis Consulting.
March 1, 2007: Four major creditors seek the appointment of a Chapter 11 Trustee
for Louis J. Pearlman and Trans Continental Airlines, Inc. by filing involuntary
March 1. German youth-magazine BRAVO covers Louis Pearlman. See for a
March 6. Businessweek compilation. Louis Pearlman seemed to have it all...
March 6. A lawsuit faults Florida governor Charlie Crist. He delayed or
interfered with investigations as attorney general, the suit says.
March 9. The lawsuit naming Crist triggered the attention of German national
news outlets, a.o. Bild and Der Spiegel.
March 11. An "insider" said in German paper EXPRESS, Pearlman is working with
the investigators to recoup the money. Allegedly a large part of the disappeared
money was found. Pearlman claims his ex-businesspartner, who took care of the
investment trusts, has disappeared, so the source said.
March 12. Another major press agency, UPI, spreading the news.
March 13. Associated Press story: More than a dozen North Dakota banks may lose
more than $20 million in soured loans. At least two banks already have filed
March 27, 2007: Soneet R. Kapila is appointed Chapter 11 Trustee of the
bankruptcy estates of Louis J. Pearlman and Trans Continental Airlines, Inc. in
the United States Bankruptcy Court, Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division
by Felicia S. Turner, United States Trustee, Region 21. The Bankruptcy Court
signed the order on March 30, 2007. 
ABC News 16 April 2007
Fox News 17 April 2007
They are auctioning off some of the assets of Pearlmans. You can view the
auction here: http://bidspotter.com/forms/event.php?event=4392
Pearlman was arrested in Indonesia June 14, 2007.