A former Charlotte-area man wants to withdraw his guilty plea over a concert scam in Hawaii. His reasons involve organized crime and a cold-case murder in Charlotte.
In October 2016, Marc Hubbard pleaded guilty to a federal wire fraud charge stemming from a canceled Stevie Wonder show at the University of Hawaii that gained national attention in 2012, and became known as the “Wonder Blunder.” But documents unsealed this week shed light on his effort to rescind his guilty plea last month on the eve of his sentencing.
Federal prosecutors in Hawaii are opposing the last-minute change of heart.
During a two-decade career, the Charlotte entrepreneur, now 50, has said he operated more than a dozen clubs and promoted big-name hip-hop artists. His former Club Hush on Independence Boulevard once drew reality TV star Kim Kardashian during the Democratic National Convention.
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But his business ventures have frequently drawn scrutiny from authorities or landed him in court.
Hubbard’s October 2016 plea in Hawaii came just months after he pleaded guilty in Philadelphia to federal charges alleging he perpetrated a scheme to defraud investors in a concert promotion business. Two years before that, he had pleaded guilty in state court in South Carolina in a related case.
A judge sentenced him to 6 1/2 years in prison in the Philadelphia case.
In one of the documents unsealed this week, Hubbard contends he is innocent and that he pleaded guilty in Hawaii only because a prosecutor in Philadelphia threatened to expose that he had recorded conversations for the FBI with purported members of an organized crime group. In the document, he said he pleaded because of “fear that I would be injured or killed and my family would be harmed as well.”
In the document, Hubbard also detailed a connection to a mysterious 2012 incident in which a Boston ex-con died of a heart attack on a New York train platform. His backpack was stuffed with $180,000 that the government suspected was related to narcotics trafficking, according to Associated Press coverage of the incident.
An organized crime member wanted Hubbard to claim the money, saying it was related to a concert promotion but he refused, Hubbard stated in the court filing.
He also said in the filing that he later agreed to cooperate “with information I had regarding a murder in Charlotte.” He did not provide any further details.
In a response filed Wednesday, prosecutors in Hawaii said Hubbard’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea should be denied. His apparent dissatisfaction with his sentence in Philadelphia “does not excuse his delay in bringing this motion, nor does it constitute a fair and just reason why he should be permitted to withdraw his plea,” the filing said.
Hubbard’s attempt to cooperate in Charlotte, the response added, “did not bear any fruit.”
In another filing, the prosecutor in Philadelphia said that she did not threaten to expose Hubbard’s cooperation. “Even the suggestion that a federal prosecutor would reveal the identity of a cooperating witness to the target of his cooperation, in order to pressure him to plead guilty, is preposterous,” the filing said.
That filing also said that Hubbard’s cooperation in Charlotte was fruitless.
“Mr. Hubbard has been convicted of fraud at least three times,” the document said. “He is extremely skilled at playing both sides against each other. He repeatedly claimed to have information valuable to the government, in order to avoid imprisonment for as long as possible.”
An attorney for Hubbard, William Harrison, did not respond to a request for comment. Marc Wallenstein, an assistant U.S. Attorney in Hawaii, declined to comment.
The 2016 plea agreement in the Hawaii case said Hubbard falsely represented to an associate that he could produce a Wonder concert at the university but failed to disclose that he was not in touch with Wonder’s management. The agreement said Hubbard received $147,500 for the concert but used it for his own purposes.
As a result of Hubbard’s false statements, the University of Hawaii lost $200,000 on the canceled show, according to the plea agreement. The incident also brought the school national embarrassment.
A hearing is scheduled for March 19 on Hubbard’s motion to withdraw his plea. He is being held at the Honolulu Federal Detention Center.