Promoter admits 'Phony Toni' scam

A Surinam promoter acknowledged trying to pass off a Las Vegas-based entertainer as six-time Grammy winner Toni Braxton at a disastrous show dubbed the 'Phony Toni' concert by local media, his lawyer said.

A Surinam promoter acknowledged trying to pass off a Las Vegas-based entertainer as six-time Grammy winner Toni Braxton at a disastrous show dubbed the 'Phony Toni' concert by local media, his lawyer said.

Angel Ventura told a judge he scammed people into paying up to $53 (€39.50) thinking they would hear the famous singer at a much-hyped show more than two months ago, defence lawyer Lamure Latour said.

“He confessed in front of the investigating judge to the charges and said that he was aware of what he was doing,” the lawyer said.

The February 28 show ended abruptly after Braxton impersonator Trina Johnson-Finn hit a sour note at the beginning of the second song. She was rushed off the stage to a loud chorus of boos and a volley of rubbish.

Prosecutors accused Johnson-Finn, 40, of trying to pass herself off as Braxton, best known for the hit song 'Un-break My Heart'.

She has been in jail for the last two months awaiting a scheduled trial on May 26 for allegedly defrauding the nearly 3,000 people who bought tickets – though she said she was an unwitting participant in the scam.

Prosecutor Duncan Nanhoe said the promoter’s confession does not necessarily clear Johnson-Finn.

“Yes, Ventura confessed. But I don’t think that his admission of guilt dismisses Johnson as a suspect,” Mr Nanhoe said. It was not immediately clear if Johnson-Finn and Ventura would be tried together.

Johnson-Finn’s husband, Raymond Finn, said she has augmented her 20-year singing career by impersonating various stars as a “tribute artist” and was also the victim of Mr Ventura, who aggressively promoted her as the real Braxton without her knowledge.

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