Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Phony Toni Braxton

PARAMARIBO, Suriname: What was supposed to be a glamorous stage performance by six-time Grammy winning singer-songwriter Toni Braxton ended in a disastrous event in Suriname in the small hours of Saturday morning with angry patrons in the stands shouting for their money to be refunded.

Minutes after the artiste entered the stage in a packed Anthony Nesty Indoor Stadium, patrons realized that they were conned by show promoter Angel Ventura from ‘Events 4 Suriname’, an entertainment bureau operating here.

Security had to rescue US entertainer Trina Johnson, who was allegedly hired to do an imitation of Toni Braxton from the stage and whisked her away in a limousine. During her second song, people started throwing bottles and other missiles to the podium, while some were screaming that this was a hoax and a rip-off.

Subsequently, chaos broke out with angry patrons looting the bars in the stadium, while others rushed for the gates. Part of the stunned crowd just stood there in disbelief, looking at a by then empty stage.

“This is not happening; I can’t believe this,” a female patron said in disbelief, while her companion was tugging at her arm to leave the venue.

“At least this will compensate for my loss,” a man shouted running away from a bar where he grabbed two bottles of whiskey from the shelves.

Meanwhile, police have started a criminal investigation into the case, after scores of disgruntled patrons filed complaints alleging fraud, police spokesman under-inspector Humphrey Naarden said in an invited comment.

So far, no arrest has been made, since Angel Ventura, allegedly from the US Virgin Islands, and his assistant Signet Samson, disappeared after the concert, without paying several local sponsors, organizations, stage managers and artistes who performed support acts.

However, Trina Johnson was questioned by police, but since she could produce a contract stating that she would perform an imitation act she was subsequently released. Also, local assistants during the show were questioned. Tickets for the concert were sold for US$20 and US$25 while VIP-tickets were costing US$55.

Days before the concert people were already skeptical since there was no press conference as usual when popular entertainers arrive in Suriname. The organizer claimed that Toni Braxton was too tired from the flight to do interviews. During an interview, however, Trina Johnson, claiming to be Braxton’s manager, disclosed that the singer was very excited to perform in Suriname.

People were therefore shocked to witness Johnson performing the Toni Braxton act.

Meanwhile the concert has been dubbed the ‘Phony Toni’ show. The promotion campaign, including a TV ad portraying the real Toni Braxton saying that she is coming to Suriname, made people believe that the genuine R&B singer was coming to Paramaribo.

“This is a clear cut case of fraud,” said police spokesman Naarden.

Impersonating someone else with the intent to pilfer something, whether it is money, a good or service from another individual, according to Article 386 of the Surinamese Criminal Code is a criminal offense with a maximum jail term of three years.

Since several of the suspects are foreigners, border crossings would be alerted to be on the look-out. source

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