Lou Pearlman, disgraced founder of ‘NSync and Backstreet Boys, dies in prison

Lou Pearlman was arrested in Guam on fraud charges. In was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison in 2008. Photo by Hola53/Wikimedia Commons

ORLANDO, Fla., Aug. 21 (UPI) — Lou Pearlman, who launched the boy bands Backstreet Boys and ‘NSync, died in prison while serving a 25-year sentence for a $30 million Ponzi scheme, a federal inmate database shows.

Pearlman, 62, died Friday in Federal Correctional Institution at Texarkana, Texas, of undisclosed causes, according to the database. Multiple sources also confirmed the death to Billboard.

‘NSync singer Lance Bass posted to Twitter on Saturday that Pearlman “might not have been a stand-up businessman, but I wouldn’t be doing what I love today (without) his influence. RIP Lou.”

Starting in the 1990s, Pearlman managed the Backstreet Boys, ‘NSync, O-Town and the Chippendales. O-Town was formed from the reality series Making the Band on ABC and MTV from 2000 to 2003.

Pearlman’s extravagant lifestyle, including a mansion in Orlando, Fla., came to a halt in 2006 he was found to be running the Ponzi scheme, a fraudulent investment scam.

He fled from regulators and creditors, but was caught by FBI agents in Bali, Indonesia, under the false name, A. Incognito Johnson. He was expelled from the country and arrested in Guam.

In 2008, he pleaded guilty to money laundering and making a false statement in a 2007 bankruptcy proceeding.

Money was funneled through his Trans Continental Airlines and Transcontinental Airlines Travel Services companies for worthless stock.

Band members were among those filing civil suits.

During sentencing, he said, “I’m truly sorry, your honor, to all the people who have been hurt and victimized by my actions. Over the past nine months since my arrest, I’ve come to realize the harm that has been done. I now want to do whatever I can to help resolve that harm.”

Orlando attorney Mark NeJame represented Pearlman on civil cases. He described Pearlman — known as “Big Poppa” by friends — as a “colorful character” with different lives.

“He’d never forget to call you on a holiday or on your birthday,” he told the Orlando Sentinel. “…but later when you found out all he’d been involved in, it was like a different side of him that he kept from everybody. We all had no earthly idea he was involved with all of that.”

In the 1980s, he founded a helicopter taxi service in New York City and then moved into blimp leasing.

But he left the blimp business after some crashed.

He moved into the music industry when he remembered chartering a plane in the late 1980s for New Kids on the Block. He placed a classified ad in the Orlando Sentinel for teen male vocalists, who became the Backstreet Boys.

In a 2007 Vanity Fair article about Pearlman titled, “Mad About the Boys,” he was accused of sexual harassment.

“None of these kids will ever admit anything happened,” one attorney who sued Pearlman told Vanity Fair. “They’re all too ashamed, and if the truth came out it would ruin their careers.”

In 2014, Bass told The Hollywood Reporter: “We would hear things, for sure. He would always have young boy limo drivers for Trans Continental Records. Those limo drivers would always be put into different boy bands. Then I’d hear rumors that he would molest the boys before they would even get into the groups. I don’t know how much of that is true, but to me, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

Pearlman denied any inappropriate relations.


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