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Hawaii News

‘Wonder Blunder’ figure gets nearly 5-year term

  • DENNIS ODA / 2016

    North Carolina concert promoter Marc Hubbard walks to federal court in Honolulu. Hubbard was sentenced Friday to nearly five years in prison for a concert scam that humiliated the University of Hawaii. Hubbard pleaded guilty to wire fraud, saying he lied about his ability to produce Stevie Wonder for a fundraiser concert.

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A man who lied to the University of Hawaii about his ability to get Stevie Wonder to play at a fundraiser concert was sentenced Friday to nearly five years in prison.

In an unexpected ruling, U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi ordered that Mark Hubbard’s 57-month sentence run consecutively with more than six years he is serving for a similar case in Pennsylvania. A deal with prosecutors had called for his sentence to run concurrently with the Pennsylvania prison term where he pleaded guilty in a separate concert investment scam.

The university paid a $200,000 deposit in 2012 and began selling tickets before learning that neither Wonder nor his representatives authorized a show. A local businessman paid $50,000 of his own money to help finance the show, which never happened, prosecutors said.

The scam not only hurt the university financially, but it subjected the school and the community to ridicule, Kobayashi said, noting the incident has been dubbed the “Wonder Blunder.” She did not explain her reason for not adhering to the plea agreement prosecutors and Hubbard’s defense attorney had struck.

Defense attorney William Harrison said Hubbard intends to appeal his sentence.

The community demanded to know how the university “could be so easily duped,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Wallenstein said. The scam prompted investigations and cost a university official his career, Wallenstein said.

The university reassigned athletic director Jim Donovan after the failed concert came to light. Donovan later left the university.

“More than that, though, he lost his reputation,” Wallenstein said.

Donovan is now athletic director at California State University, Fullerton.

A special state Senate committee that investigated the university’s handling of the bungled concert said the incident tarnished the university’s reputation.

The committee said no one at the university looked into whether the agent was an authorized representative of the singer. They also faulted a lack of oversight and communication in the school’s athletics department, general counsel and disbursing office.

Hubbard, who is from North Carolina, had tried to take back his guilty plea, saying he’s innocent and was coerced into pleading guilty because he feared prosecutors would reveal he cooperated against East Coast mobsters. Prosecutors denied that and said while he did offer to cooperate against purported organized crime figures, his help was useless.

Harrison said that even though his help didn’t lead to anything, it put his family in peril.

Kobayashi denied Hubbard’s request to withdraw his guilty plea.

Hubbard’s co-defendant in the case is awaiting sentencing.

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