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Fans' Online Manhunt Nets Fraud Suspect

The State

Man who allegedly bilked singer Bjork's devotees for San Diego concert he never staged is held in Hawaii.

January 25, 2003|H.G. Reza | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — There is no fury like that of a Bjork fan ripped off. Ask Alex Conate.

Conate was arrested this week in Hawaii after he allegedly defrauded 400 San Diego fans of the Icelandic pop singer by selling $16,000 in tickets for a concert he never staged.

The suspect was nabbed because of his own boasting and electronic "wanted" fliers posted by Bjork's jilted fans.

"The word went out along with his picture. He was nailed in Hawaii, hopefully with our money," said Greg Horton, manager of a record store in San Diego's Hillcrest neighborhood and one of Conate's alleged victims.

Conate's photograph, showing him with a receding hairline and what appears to be a hoop dangling from his lower lip, was posted on a San Diego-based entertainment Web site along with the message, "Have you seen me?"

He was spotted in Honolulu, where he was arrested Wednesday at a local residence by police after a tip to Honolulu Crime Stoppers, said Honolulu Police Det. Letha DeCaires.

However, Conate is being held on a warrant issued by the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Department for alleged elder abuse, said DeCaires.

Conate, 24, enticed 400 Bjork fans to pay $40 apiece to hear her perform at the Flame, a small club near downtown, Horton said.

Bjork's appearance at a small club in the heart of San Diego's gay community sounded too good to be true, said Horton, who nevertheless purchased two tickets from Conate.

"It seemed kind of weird but not unusual. Huge artists like Bjork sometimes play these intimate venues as a favor to a friend," he said.

Conate told Horton and others that he was a member of the singer's band and that she had agreed to perform in San Diego as a favor to him and as a belated birthday present to local and legitimate promoter Bryan Pollard.

The show was scheduled for Jan. 15, but rumors began circulating about a week earlier that Conate had vanished, Horton said.

Pollard and management at the Flame were also duped by Conate, authorities said. They did not return calls for comment.

"I feel terrible for [Pollard]. He's had a good reputation for years. He came in and told us that this friend of his was getting Bjork to come and play. Everybody got fooled," Horton said.

Conate prepared an elaborate scheme to convince fans that Bjork was going to entertain in San Diego, Horton said. Conate showed him e-mails she had supposedly sent him saying she could not wait to do the show.

Conate also went to the expense of printing authentic-looking tickets.

"A lot of people were angry over the deception. When his scam became obvious, fans began communicating by computer all over the place. His picture was on the Internet. Someone in Hawaii heard him bragging that he promoted concerts in San Diego and checked him out. They learned what he did and contacted [Pollard]. Then the police were called," Horton said.

In addition to the elder abuse warrant, San Luis Obispo County authorities have issued another arrest warrant for Conate for allegedly writing bogus checks, said a sheriff's spokesman.

On Friday, Conate was charged with one count of grand theft by the San Diego County district attorney's office, and a judge has issued an arrest warrant for him, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Tricia Pummill.

Pummill said she will seek Conate's extradition to San Diego.

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