U.S. agents Thursday raided the home and offices of boy-band impresario Lou Pearlman, known for launching ’N Sync and the Backstreet Boys, as part of a criminal investigation, officials said.
Pearlman has already been sued by the state of Florida for alleged securities fraud involving an employee investment program.
Federal prosecutors and the FBI were investigating “various allegations leveled against Mr. Pearlman and his entities,” U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Steve Cole said.
“Other than confirming the existence of an investigation, we are not in a position to comment further at this time. Today’s searches are part of this investigation,” Cole said.
FBI special agent Kevin Farrington said agents were taking ”documents that would be associated with a money trail.”
The investigation follows a complaint filed in December by the Florida Office of Financial Regulation alleging securities fraud against Pearlman and 16 of his business entities, many of them beginning with the words Trans Continental.
According to the state lawsuit, Pearlman’s companies for 15 years have sold unregistered securities in what was called an ”employee investment savings account” program, committing securities fraud by implying the money was safe and insured.
But like a Ponzi scheme, according to the complaint, early investors were paid $118 million in dividends from deposits by more recent investors, while $7 million was paid in sales commissions and $50 million went to Pearlman and two other defendants.
As a result of that complaint, a judge on Feb. 2 ordered Trans Continental Airlines Inc. placed in receivership, according to receiver Gerald McHale, who reported on the company’s web site that Pearlman has $160 million in lawsuits and legal judgments against him and that there appeared to be few assets in the company.
McHale, who also reported on the Web site that Pearlman was last known to be in Germany, has been quoted in the Orlando Sentinel as saying claims against Pearlman and the companies may reach $314 million.
Cole said federal prosecutors were monitoring state investigations and lawsuits against Pearlman and his company.
He said no federal charges had been filed against Pearlman but would not comment on whether a federal grand jury has been impaneled in the investigation.
Farrington said the U.S. Internal Revenue Service joined Thursday’s search.