Longtime Branson entertainer James Patrick Garrett pleaded guilty to stealing more than $ 85,000 in a fraud program.
In a press release, the US District Attorney’s Office announced that 65-year-old Garrett, of Branson, pleaded guilty to federal court guilty of stealing more than $ 85,000 from hundreds of his own viewers on Thursday, March 18 who donated to its non-viewers -existing charity for foster children.
“For several years, this performer used his own audience by pulling their hearts while stealing from their pockets,” reigning US attorney Teresa A. Moore said in the press release. “He cynically and greedily victimized donors who mistakenly believed they were helping foster children. There is no way of knowing how much cash has actually been stolen, but we intend to seek a refund for the victims identified by law enforcement, as well as a jail term and a hefty fine. “
Garrett waived his right to a grand jury and pleaded guilty to federal notice accusing him of a number of wire frauds.
“Today’s plea is a reminder that US intelligence is determined to aggressively investigate and prosecute those who commit financial crimes,” said Brandon C. Bridgeforth, special envoy for US intelligence in Kansas City, in the press release. “This defendant used his theater and platform as a performer to take advantage of the generosity of those who attended his performances. The defendant took advantage of these people who thought they were helping children in need and then betrayed them. This investigation is evidence of the close partnership between the Secret Service, Branson, Mo., the law enforcement agency and the US Attorney General. “
In 2001 Garrett began performing at the Jim Stafford Theater in Branson. After six years, Garrett moved to the Little Opry Theater at the Branson Imax Entertainment Complex, where, according to his personal website, he has directed several shows for more than a decade.
Garrett’s first in-theater show, A Tribute to John Denver, began in January 2007. In April 2008, Garrett debuted his next show at the same theater called George Straight Country. In recent years, Garrett has added more shows to his lineup at the Little Opry Theater, including The Glen Campbell Songbook and Neil Diamond Gold, his website said.
“The Branson Police Department is committed to ensuring the best interests of our residents and visitors,” said Jeff Matthews, Branson Police Chief, in the press release. “We initiated this investigation and introduced it to our federal partners at the United States Secret Service last year. They accepted the case and successfully took it to the US attorney for prosecution. These types of relationships and partnerships help us protect our community and the values Branson is known for. “
According to the press release, on November 3, 2012, Garrett founded Diamond Jym Ranch, Inc., with himself as president and a member of the board of directors. Diamond Jym Ranch was supposedly founded to “build houses for displaced or homeless boys or girls, educate and train such children, provide them with food, shelter and welfare,” according to the statutes.
When Garrett pleaded guilty today, he admitted that he victimized his viewers through a scam program that ran from March 2016 to August 2020. At the end of each John Denver Tribute, Garrett asked members of his audience to donate to the Diamond Jym Ranch. Garrett mistakenly told the audience that he had built homes for foster children in Branson and Texas. Garrett informed viewers that their donations to Diamond Jym Ranch would be used to support foster homes and support foster children. Neither of these claims were true, and Garrett knew they were false at the time the accounts were made, the news release says.
Garrett set up a donation box at the exit of the theater where he was performing the John Denver Tribute. After the show, hundreds of his viewers left their donations in the donation box. Garrett also directed viewers wishing to donate monthly or regularly to Diamond Jym Ranch to mail their checks to his home address in Branson.
“Garrett admitted that he used the money he raised for his personal living expenses, including frequent dining at Branson restaurants, credit card debt, rent, taxes, mortgage payments, health insurance, and car insurance,” the press release said . “Overall, Garrett has attracted hundreds of John Denver Tribute viewers over the years to make financial donations to Diamond Jym Ranch. Garrett’s plan to cheat resulted in a collective loss to his victims of at least $ 85,525. “
According to the press release, the specific charge on which Garrett pleaded guilty on March 18 also includes a $ 1,000 contribution made by an audience identified in court documents as “DC,” an Illinois resident . Garrett used DC’s donation for his own personal purposes and not for the benefit of foster children.
Under federal law, Garrett is sentenced to up to 20 years in prison without parole. The maximum legal penalty is prescribed by Congress and is included here for informational purposes, as the conviction of the accused is determined by the court based on the Guidelines for Advisory Convictions and other legal factors. A conviction hearing is scheduled after a probationary investigation into the present is completed, the press release said.
U.S. Assistant Attorney Shannon Kempf. is following the case, which was investigated by the US Secret Service and the Branson Police Department as part of the US Secret Service’s Financial Crimes Task Force.