Orlando music mogul Lou Pearlman made his money the old fashioned way: He got little old ladies to sink their life savings into nonexistent companies, then pocketed the money. As if that weren’t bad enough, Pearlman then used some of those millions to help manufacture boy-band juggernauts Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC. The world would never be the same.
Pearlman, who was a first cousin to Art Garfunkel, set out to run airlines and travel agencies, although most of these companies existed only on paper. When New Kids on the Block chartered one of his planes, he launched his own personal star search that resulted in Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, LFO and Aaron Carter, all of whom later sued Pearlman for back earnings. In a Vanity Fair article, several anonymous band-members alleged his hands-on management style included naked hotel bed romps with his charges.
After *NSYNC sang “Bye Bye Bye” to Pearlman, feds took control of his one remaining company in 2007. The man the Orlando Weekly dubbed a “corpulent pusbag” fled to Bali, where he adopted the alias “A. Incognito Johnson.” In May 2008, the 53-year-old was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison, but his debts to cheated investors, which total some $300 million, remain unpaid . — Charles Bottomley