July 26, 2017 10:15:35 AM
Amber Gibson of Columbus has family traveling from Stonewall to see her sing this weekend in a talent show at the Columbus Fairgrounds.
Her relatives made those plans despite Gibson becoming increasingly suspicious the talent show may not be what it seems -- or even happen at all.
Gibson, who paid $15 to register as a contestant for the show earlier this month at Leigh Mall, hopes to earn one of the recording contracts with Nashville, Tennessee-based Gemini Records that's been promised to the talent show's top two performers.
But several red flags accompany this hope: No records indicate a company called Gemini Records even exists in Nashville, the street address listed on a Facebook page attributed to the company is not valid and the person supposedly organizing this weekend's talent show -- Justin Lee of Columbus -- is a convicted felon.
"Everybody makes mistakes," said Gibson, indicating she won't be too disappointed if it all proves to be a scam. "I think a lot of people are going to be upset, but I guess (if it is a scam, organizers) needed that money more than I did.
"There were contact numbers on each of the forms, and I think they should be contacting each of the contestants," she added. "Somebody should be getting in touch with us to put us at ease that it's going to take place."
As of Tuesday morning, the Gemini Records talent show was still set to take place from 2-10 p.m. each day this weekend, Columbus Fairgrounds manager Jane Jordan said.
Jordan said Lee plans to set up equipment Friday -- the same day Lee would owe Jordan a total of $800 for the two days he plans to rent the venue.
Jordan said a person's background does not concern her when she books an event at the Fairgrounds, adding Lee called her Monday to confirm Gemini Record's talent show would be going forward as planned.
Lee, whose parole record with the Mississippi Department of Corrections indicates he has served time for one offense of simple assault of a police officer and two offenses of false pretense, previously tried to book the event at Trotter Convention Center, which was the location he originally advertised on Facebook, radio and in print.
That plan fell through last week, however, when Trotter Director Mike Anderson said Lee failed to pay the full rental fee by the deadline.
Gemini Records raises suspicion
Lee told The Dispatch Saturday about 100 people from the Golden Triangle had signed up -- either in Columbus, Starkville or West Point -- to perform in the show. All paid the $15 entry fee, both Gibson and fellow contestant Amber Gainer confirmed. Lee said he planned to host another sign-up event in Tupelo this past weekend.
Like Gibson, Gainer registered at Leigh Mall. Because she owns Singing Cricket Productions in Columbus, Gainer said Lee then asked her to DJ two weekends later at the Starkville sign-up session in front of Vowell's Marketplace. When she showed up to DJ, she said something felt "off."
Gainer said Lee seemed "very unprofessional" and showed up late to his own event.
Now, she believes the whole thing is a hoax.
"I don't think it's going to happen," Gainer said of the talent show. "I don't think there are judges. I don't think the company even exists."
The Dispatch previously reported no company by the name of Gemini Records is currently registered as an active business with the Tennessee Secretary of State's Office, and the only company by that name on file was dissolved in 1987 for failing to file annual paperwork to remain active.
Scott Colom, district attorney for Lowndes, Oktibbeha, Clay and Noxubee counties, said a business operating under a sole proprietorship would not have to be registered with the state. But Lee, who claims to have worked for Gemini Records for six years, told The Dispatch he has a boss based in Nashville by the name of Jonathan Ingram.
In a voicemail to a Dispatch reporter on Tuesday night, Lee said his "boss" would attend the weekend show.
If any contestants want a refund of their registration fees, his message continued, they can collect it at noon Sunday at the Fairgrounds -- the day the show concludes.
"If anybody wants to speak with the boss man or corporate, everybody will be there this weekend," Lee said.
Even if a talent show happens this weekend at the Fairgrounds, that doesn't necessarily mean legal trouble couldn't still follow.
Colom said he could not specifically talk about potential crimes against Gemini Records because Lee and the supposed company are not currently under investigation. However, charges could arise if no record contract is presented to winning contestants.
"If he knowingly and fraudulently told contestants that if they paid and performed there was a potential record contract, and he or she knew there was no record company to offer a contract and it was just an attempt to fraudulently get money from contestants, then there are some potential charges," Colom said. "In general, not talking specifically about the present situation, whenever someone fraudulently induces someone to give them money, there's the potential of that being false pretenses as a potential criminal charge, among other potential property crimes."
Columbus Public Informations Officer Joe Dillon confirmed no one has complained to police about Lee or Gemini Records, and they are not under investigation.
"There has been no complaint and no calls about the event, and the fact that it has not been held means nothing has happened," Dillon said. "The police department investigates criminal activity and complaints, but only when something illegal has occurred or believed to have occurred or will occur."
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