‘Nobody sent me any money’

Published 9:50 pm Saturday, August 31, 2013

Jazz fest organizer hints refunds aren’t coming

Jazz fans who bought tickets to the canceled Suffolk Riverfront Jazz Festival aren’t going to get refunds from him, the organizer signaled Friday.

After weeks of ignoring calls and emails from the Suffolk News-Herald, Aubrey Wilson came to the locked door at the Norfolk office of Robra Construction, where he is the president, after the third knock on Friday.

Wilson organized the festival, which was set to take place July 26-28 and would have featured names like Dianne Reeves, Jeff Lorber, Maestro J and Julian Vaughn in the Hilton Garden Inn on East Constance Road. The festival was set to benefit the Gladys Gatlin Foundation, which purports to provide assistance to female veterans.


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However, the festival was canceled via emails to ticketholders on July 25. Since that time, he has not returned attempted contacts from the Suffolk News-Herald and has not issued refunds to any of the ticketholders and artists the News-Herald has spoken to.

Throughout the brief conversation at his office on Friday, Wilson stood in the doorway and held the door open.

Asked when he would issue refunds, Wilson was evasive.

“Nobody sent me any money,” he claimed. He said people who bought tickets should contact the people to whom they sent money.

Asked where the money went when people paid, Wilson dodged the question.

“I understand you’re trying to get a story, but you’re not going to get one from me,” he said before closing and locking the door to the office, located at 1701 Church St. in Norfolk.

Laura Atkins is one of many people who has not yet received a refund.

“I made many, many, many calls and no response,” said Atkins, who bought two tickets for the event for a total of $274. “I was not able to speak to anyone and have not received my refund yet.”

She said the last few times she called, a message stated the subscriber is not accepting messages. She was not able to pursue a refund through Paypal, an online payment service, because it had been more than 45 days since she bought her tickets.

Finally, Atkins filed a complaint with her financial institution.

John Marshall III also lost $274 on his tickets and had the same experience with Paypal. His bank would not refund the cash because it was an authorized transaction.

James Racine, whose stage name is Maestro J, also told the News-Herald earlier this month that he has not been issued refunds for the travel arrangements he made to perform in the festival, which were to have been reimbursed upon his arrival.

Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney C. Phillips Ferguson said this week that the Suffolk Police Department has received one complaint from a ticketholder, but his office has not received a specific request to conduct an investigation.

“The question becomes whether this is a civil matter or a criminal matter,” Ferguson said. “It could be that the guy spent all the money and just ran out of money, just like a business goes bankrupt.”

Ferguson said it may be difficult to prove a criminal act.

“If it’s criminal, there would have to be some showing that what he did was a scam, and you get into all kinds of other issues,” Ferguson said. Otherwise, “people would have to find this guy and sue him civilly,” he said.