TEXARKANA, TX (CelebrityAccess) — Lou Pearlman, a music mogul who built pop careers for 1990s boy bands such as the Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync, and who was later convicted of running a massive and long-running Ponzi scheme, died in prison on August 29th at the age of 62.
According to the New York Times, Pearlman's death was confirmed by a prisoner database maintained by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, but his cause of death was no reported.
A native of Flushing, New York, Pearlman's early interest in the music industry came after watching the success of his cousin Art Garfunkel. Following college, he made a brief foray and litigious into the world of civil aviation with a helicopter taxi service and several blimp companies before turning his focus to the music world, enticed by the success of boy band New Kids on the Block.
Following that successful model, Pearlman launched Trans Continental Records through which he formed and managed a series of groups, including The Backstreet boys, NSYNC, Lyte Funky Ones (LFO), O-Town, Take 5, and Natural, some of which would go on to sell tens of millions of records. He also launched girl groups, including Innosense (which briefly included Britney Spears).
While most of these groups generated millions with their boy-band formula, virtually all ended up taking Pearlman to court, accusing him of unjustly enriching himself at their expense. Many of the male performers also accused Pearlman of sexual impropriety. In 2007, LFO singer Rich Cronin told Vanity Fair that Pearlman was always "grabbing" the young men in his groups.
“Honestly, I don’t think Lou ever thought we would become stars,” Mr. Cronin said. “I just think he wanted cute guys around him; this was all an excuse. And then lightning crazily struck, and an empire was created. It was all dumb luck.”
Pearlman was never charged in relation to any sexual offenses and denied that he had committed any such crimes during an interview with Billboard in 2014.
In 2006, investigators discovered that Pearlman had been running a massive Ponzi scheme, enticing both individuals and financial institutions to invest two fictitious companies built with falsified documents. Investigators have alleged that Pearlman defrauded investors an estimated $300 million over a 20-year period.
Pearlman fled the country, but was subsequently arrested in Indonesia and was indicted by a federal grand jury on June 27, 2007 on charges of bank fraud, mail fraud, and wire fraud. He plead guilty in 2008 and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
In 2010, Pearlman was reported to have suffered a stroke and had been in declining health since.
Following news of his death, many of his former protegees took to social media to comment.
Former members of ‘N Sync, Lance Bass and Justin Timberlake, expressed sorrow at Pearlman's passing but also noted Pearlman's sharp business dealings.
“He might not have been a stand up businessman, but I wouldn’t be doing what I love today wout (sic) his influence," Bass wrote on Twitter. “RIP Lou.”
Timberlake wrote, “I hope he found some peace.” – Staff Writers