A criminal Information filed today charges Melissa Goodwin, 55, of Nashville, Tennessee, with wire fraud in relation to a fraudulent scheme in which she embezzled over $3.7 million from the T.J. Martell Foundation for Cancer Research, announced U.S. Attorney Mark H. Wildasin for the Middle District of Tennessee.
The T.J. Martell Foundation is the music industry’s leading foundation that funds innovative medical research focused on finding treatments and cures for cancer. The Foundation raises money for cancer research by soliciting in-kind donations from celebrities and then auctioning off those donations for a profit. Goodwin had been employed at the Foundation since 2005 and was the Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Foundation from 2018 until July 2020.
According to the charging document, between July 2018 and June 2020, Goodwin devised a scheme to defraud the T.J. Martell Foundation by purchasing approximately $3.96 million in tickets from online ticket vendors Ticketmaster, Stubhub, Primesport, and On-Location, using a Foundation credit card she had obtained in her own name. These tickets were not for a legitimate Foundation purpose and included tickets to musical concerts such as Lady Gaga and Celine Dion, and some were to sporting events, such as Super Bowl LIV, which was scheduled to take place in Miami, Florida, on February 2, 2020.
Goodwin provided these tickets to an individual in New York City who owned and operated a charity auction business. This business conducted auctions for clients, offering consignment items such as event tickets and sports memorabilia to the clients for use in their auctions. As part of the scheme, Goodwin led this individual to believe that she had acquired the tickets at no cost or at a discounted rate. Goodwin also used the Foundation’s credit card to purchase other items that were not for legitimate Foundation purposes, such as expensive and rare alcohols, plane tickets, and hotel stays. She then used the Foundation’s bank accounts to pay the credit card charges.
In order to conceal the ticket purchases, Goodwin provided falsified credit card statements and false expense reports to the Foundation’s accounting firm. Goodwin falsified the credit card statements by altering them to conceal the ticket purchases, as well as other expenses. She often replaced the name of the actual vendor with the name of a different vendor so that the charges appeared to be legitimate Foundation expenses. In total, Goodwin concealed over $3 million in fraudulent credit card expenses.
The Foundation’s accounting firm prepared the Foundation’s periodic financial statements based on these falsified credit card statements and expense reports. The accounting firm then emailed those statements to Goodwin, whose job it was to provide them to the Foundation’s CEO.
However, before providing them to the CEO, Goodwin falsified those financial statements by inflating the Foundation’s assets and lowering its liabilities to make the Foundation appear to be more liquid than it was at the time. These falsifications prevented the Foundation from detecting Goodwin’s fraudulent transactions.
In addition to falsifying the credit card statements and financial statements, Goodwin forged the signature of the Foundation’s CEO on six checks totaling $966,275.78 that were not approved by the Foundation.
If convicted, Goodwin faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
The government also seeks the forfeiture of at least $3,765,606.77, which represents the proceeds of the alleged crime.
This case was investigated by the FBI. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn W. Booth is prosecuting the case.
The charges contained in the Information are merely accusations. The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.