BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – Jason Pascua knew how to put on a good act – at least that’s what the U.S. Army reservist and former Hawaii House of Representatives candidate told local residents.
According to a March 27 federal indictment, Pascua solicited a collective $1.4 million over three years from 29 Hawaii families on the promise of getting them a 25-to-50 percent return on their “investment” into his concert and promotion business. Pascua told his victims that he ran concert and nightclub promotion events in Honolulu and Las Vegas with musical artists and celebrity talent. Pascua told potential investors that their money would be “used for up-front costs and spread among multiple concert and night club events that he was promoting to mitigate risk.”
Pascua used money from new investors to pay off earlier investors in what the indictment describes as a “Ponzi scheme.” Other investors received no returns at all or partial returns, the indictment said.
“Rather than using investor money for concert and nightclub promotions, the Defendant used the investors money for personal expenses and to create the illusion of legitimate investment returns derived from actual business activities when there was none,” the indictment said.
In reality, through his business J2 Marketing Solutions, Pascua focused on pets, not celebrities, and he put on pet expos at Waterfront at Aloha Tower.
The former Kaneohe resident, who now lives in Arizona, served as an Army reservist at Fort Shafter.
According to FBI Special Agent Tom Simon, that is where he found some of his “investors,” and their trust in Pascua will have a lasting impact.
“Many of the alleged victims in this case have been financially ruined from their decision to invest in the defendant’s program. It will take them years to rebuild what was lost,” Simon said.
MidWeek magazine’s society pages feature Pascua at events with some of Hawaii’s most well known politicians, including former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann and prominent Democratic activist Amy Agbayani. House Speaker Joe Souki has “Liked” Pascua’s campaign page on his Facebook page and many other politicians are listed as his “friend” on Facebook.
In 2010, Pascua joined the Democratic Party of Hawaii to run for House District 48 on the promise of “real change.”
He made his political announcement and had a candidate web site and candidate Facebook page created, but according to news reports, party officials challenged his qualifications as their candidate because his membership was not in good standing 60 days before filing.
The Filipino Chamber of Commerce embraced Pascua as the group’s president, and he helped start the Taste of Kalihi community event in 2009.
His social media accounts said after he graduated from Maryknoll Schools and attended Hawaii Pacific University that he served as the marketing director of the Hawaii Central Credit Union and the Japanese Chamber of Commerce.
FBI agents have not arrested him. According to Simon, Pascua’s defense attorney has negotiated Pascua’s planned surrender to authorities in May 2013 coinciding with his return to Honolulu to face the charges in federal court.
Pascua could not be reached for comment, but court records show he will plead guilty on May 23, 2013, at 2:45 p.m. before U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi.
The Pascua scam is another hard lesson for Hawaii residents, who tend to easily get suckered into get-rich-quick schemes.
“The people of Hawaii need to learn that there is no such thing as an investment with guaranteed returns of 25 percent to 50 percent. Somehow these cases keep recurring here. It’s baffling,” Simon said.
“The past four years have seen an epidemic of Ponzi schemes plaguing the Hawaii economy. Hopefully, this latest case will serve as a lesson to the people of Hawaii to investigate before they invest,” Simon added.
This is the second case involving fake concert promoters that Simon and the FBI have investigated in recent months.
The University of Hawaii athletic department planned a Stevie Wonder concert last year, but after wiring a $200,000 deposit to promoter Epic Talent LLC in Florida, learned they had been scammed.
Simon arrested two men in that case, Sean Barriero, 44, of Miami, Florida, who owned EPIC Talent LLC and Marc Hubbard, 44, of North Carolina. Barriero plead guilty in November 2012 and Hubbard is awaiting trial.