by: Ivie Macy, Ozarks First
A performer in Branson, Missouri, known for his John Denver tribute, is in federal court for stealing more than $85,000 from his audience members through a non-existent charity for foster children.
James Patrick Garrett, 65, performed six days a week at the IMAX playing songs made popular by the late John Denver and other classic country artists.
“For several years, this performer took advantage of his own audiences by pulling at their heartstrings while stealing from their pockets,” said Teresa A. Moore, the acting U.S. Attorney. “He cynically and greedily victimized donors who falsely believed they were helping foster children. There’s no way to know how much cash was actually stolen, but we intend to seek restitution for the victims law enforcement has identified, as well as prison time and a hefty fine.”
Garrett pleaded guilty to a fraud scheme lasting from March 2016 to August 2020. At the end of his tribute, he would ask for donations to Diamond Jym Ranch, a fake non-profit Garrett falsely told his audience members would help establish homes for homeless or foster boys and girls as well as provide them with education, food, lodging and well-being in Branson and Texas.
A donation box was placed at the exit of the theatre and those who wanted to make monthly donations could send money to Garrett’s home address in Branson.
Garrett said the money was used for personal living expenses, including credit card debt, rent, mortgage payments and health insurance.
“The Branson Police Department is always looking out for the best interest of our residents and visitors,” said Branson Police Chief Jeff Matthews. “We initiated this investigation and presented it to our federal partners at the United States Secret Service last year. They adopted the case and were successful in presenting it to the U.S. Attorney for prosecution. These kinds of relationships and partnerships help us protect our community and the values Branson is known for.”
Federal statutes say Garrett is facing up to 20 years in federal prison without parole.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Shannon Kempf and under investigation by the U.S. Secret Service and the Branson Police Department.