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US concert promoter accused of US$300m Ponzi scheme

[MIAMI] A former US concert promoter charged with defrauding thousands of investors in a US$300 million (S$396 million) Ponzi scheme appeared before a US judge Monday following extradition from Brazil, the Justice Department said.

John Utsick, 72, who promoted concerts by Coldplay, The Rolling Stones, Elton John and Aerosmith is accused of defrauding investors to produce musical events - many of which lost money - while he paid off previous investors and led a life of luxury.

He defrauded 3,300 investors from whom he obtained approximately US$300 million, the Department of Justice said in a statement.

Utsick made his initial appearance Monday before US Magistrate Judge Jonathan Goodman in Miami.

Part of the money bought him two multi-million-dollar Miami Beach condos, stocks and options, and a yacht. He also used the money to help fund the movie, National Lampoon's Pledge This!, starring Paris Hilton, it said.

Utsick fled to Brazil in 2006 after the US Securities and Exchange Commission accused him of fraud and he became aware of an FBI investigation against him.

In August, Brazil's Supreme Court ordered him extradited to the United States.

Utsick arrived in Miami Saturday, according to the Department of Justice.

The Ponzi scheme is considered one of the largest in the state of Florida, according to local press.