BRANSON, Mo. (AP) — A performer in the Missouri tourist town of Branson who convinced his audiences to donate thousands of dollars to a fake charity for foster children has been sentenced to five years of probation.
James Patrick Garrett, a 65-year-old best known for his John Denver tribute, also was ordered to pay $82,000 in restitution when he was sentenced Friday for wire fraud, the Springfield News-Leader reported. He entered a guilty plea last year.
Authorities have said Garrett devised the scheme in 2012 by creating a company named Diamond Jym Ranch, making himself the president and a member of its board of directors.
The enterprise purported to provide housing, education, food and other needs to displaced or homeless children. But prosecutors said Garrett used the donated money to eat out, pay off credit cards and pay rent and taxes.
Garrett was initially supposed to be sentenced in January, but Judge Roseann Ketchmark asked for a continuance to allow the government to explore whether or not some of the money Garrett owed could be donated to a charity.
After some research, it was determined that roughly $52,000 of the restitution money would be paid to FosterAdopt Connect, an organization that works in Missouri and Kansas to help kids and families navigate the foster care system.
The rest of the restitution money will be paid directly to Garrett’s victims who dropped cash or checks in a donation box after Garret’s shows.
“I take full responsibility,” said Garrett, who sold his house to pay the restitution. “I and I alone dismantled my life, my career, my relationships.”
The Associated Press