Controversial San Joaquin County Family Fair promoter, Michael Allen of Next Level Concert Group, spoke with FOX40 after upset vendors claimed they never received their paychecks following the fair.
Allen was brought in just six weeks ago to organize the fair, which opened last week. He reportedly promised vendors there would be around 125,000 attendees, when in reality, the fair only brought in about 13,000 people.
According to some of the entertainers, Allen signed deposit contracts, which guaranteed 50% of their service fees before the start of the fair. In a staff meeting, Allen told his contracted entertainers he would not pay the upfront fees, and insisted he would pay them in full after the fair.
Harry Mason, owner of Brass Ring Amusements has been in the carnival business for 38 years, and “[had] never seen anything like this.” Mason said Allen told him and his concerned staff not to be worried about the payments, because he “is a millionaire, has his own plane, and drives a Maserati.”
On Sunday night, many vendors and entertainers said they saw two of Allen’s people walking out of the County Fair administration building with three cash boxes. They identified one of the men as former Stockton City Council member, Ralph White. When we went to White’s Stockton home, he was unavailable.
But when checks were bouncing, hotel payments not paid, and when Allen’s alleged business partner Ralph White took the money from the cash box, vendors’ suspicions grew.
“I get here [at the hotel] and find out his credit card bounced,” balloon artist Steven Rosen said. “This Michael Allen guy… The hotel staff says a lot of the people are paying for one or two nights. I went to the fair the next day, and found out things were getting worse.”
Rosen said he, along with the rest of the staff staying at the La Quinta Inn were never paid back. Stockton Police Department has now launched an investigation regarding unpaid hotel rooms.
Mason said after speaking with Allen on the phone several times, he was able to convince him to pay some of the entertainers out of the Carnival ride proceeds he had collected. “I shamed him into it,” Mason said. “He had moneys due to him from the proceeds from the carnival. I convinced him into dispersing them among the entertainers. So they got a portion of the money. At least they were not left here dead broke.”
On Friday, Allen told the Stockton Record the fireworks show was canceled by the State Fire Marshal because of dry and windy conditions. However, a phone call to the State office revealed that the show was canceled because the pyrotechnics company wasn’t paid.
We also checked Allen’s company website, www.nextlevelconcertgroup.com It shows the company promotes big name acts like Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z, and Beyonce. However, some of the links turned up empty.
FOX40 tried contacting Allen several times on Sunday. He said he did not have time for an interview. When we called back on Monday, we spoke for a few minutes before he hung up. He said the following:
“The fact is, why don’t you ask me about the fair?” Allen asked. “Why don’t you thank me for bringing the fair to you? It wouldn’t have happened at all if my company didn’t do it, you guys wouldn’t have had a fair. You were the only county in California that didn’t have a fair. Let’s talk about the positive things.”
“He got me. I thought he was legit, and it was all BS,” Mason said.
Many of the entertainers who did not get any pay for their services have started filing lawsuits against Allen and his company.