Missouri musician pleads guilty to creating fake charity

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A Branson performer has pleaded guilty to a count of wire fraud, admitting in court that he created a fake charity for foster children to bilk his audience members of thousands of dollars, federal prosecutors for Missouri said.

James Patrick Garrett, 65, pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court to the count, which says he stole more than $85,000 over several years, prosecutors said in a news release.

Garrett for years performed the John Denver Tribute at the Branson IMAX theatre . Authorities 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, and Garrett asked audience members at the end of each of his six-day-a-week shows to donate to the charity.

Prosecutors said Garrett instead used the money collected to eat out, pay off credit cards and pay rent and taxes.

Garrett faces up to 20 years in prison when he's sentenced.

The Associated Press