Lawsuit: Pop Star's Ex-Manager A Racketeer

By GRAHAM BRINK, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 25, 2002

TAMPA -- Teenage pop star Aaron Carter filed a lawsuit Monday that accuses his former manager and record label of cheating him out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The suit, filed in state court in Hillsborough County, also accuses manager Lou Pearlman and his company Trans Continental Records of racketeering for a deliberate pattern of criminal activity in dealing with clients like Carter.

"This isn't just an honest disagreement over the terms of a contract," said Tampa lawyer William Yanger, who represents Carter. "This is something that has happened time and time again."

Scott Bennett, vice president of Trans Continental, said company officials not only feel that they don't owe Carter any money but that Carter might owe the company money. Bennett had not seen the lawsuit and said he could not comment on the details.

According to the lawsuit, Carter signed with Trans Continental in 1997. Among other things, the contract called for regular accountings of the revenue Carter generated and the payment of royalties in the amount of two-thirds of all revenues received from sales of the recordings.

Yanger was not sure exactly how much Carter is owed since the regular accounting was not provided as the contract specified, he said. The lawsuit states that the distributor of Carter's records has paid Trans Continental at least $530,000 in royalties and more in undisclosed compensation.

Trans Continental has paid Carter nothing, the suit states.

Carter, 14, was born in Tampa and rose to fame in the late 1990s with hits like Crazy Little Party Girl, I'm Gonna Miss You Forever and Shake It. He followed that up with the 2000 release of the album Aaron's Party (Come Get It) and a single and video of the same name. He has opened for Britney Spears and has sung with his brother Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys.

Pearlman and Trans Continental once represented the Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync, both of which sued to be released from their deals, accusing Pearlman of deception and cheating them out of royalties. Those cases have been settled.

A history of deliberately deceiving clients, including Carter, the Backstreet Boys, 'N Sync and Take 5, substantiates the racketeering charge, the suit alleges. Plaintiffs who win civil racketeering claims can be awarded up to triple the monetary damages, according to Florida civil statutes.

"They find talented kids, sign them, watch them get successful, don't pay them, wait for them to sue and then settle the cases," Yanger said. "It is not an isolated case."

-- Graham Brink can be reached at (813) 226-3365 or brink@sptimes.com.