Melissa Goodwin, a former top executive at the T.J. Martell Foundation, pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal charges related to accusations that she embezzled $3.7 million from the charity by using company credit cards to buy Super Bowl tickets and other purchases.
Goodwin entered a guilty plea to a single count of wire fraud, in which prosecutors say she abused her position of control over the charity, one of the music industry’s largest.
Goodwin, who faces a maximum sentence of 20 years, will be sentenced on May 20. She also faces a forfeiture of $3.7 million and a fine of up to $250,000, accoding to Billboard. However, she can lessen the sentence and penalty by cooperating with prosecutors. She also is facing separate civil lawsuits from the foundation.
The DOJ alleged that Goodwin, 55, used the foundation’s money to purchase expensive and rare alcohols, plane tickets, hotel stays and as part of a multimillion dollar ticketing scheme. The Foundation has filed two lawsuits: one against Goodwin and Darran Brown, whose Executive Sports Group (ESG) and Go Charity auction companies were allegedly complicit in the fraud; and a $5 million civil lawsuit against accounting firms Kraft CPAs and Dorfman Abrams Music for breach of contract and professional negligence.
The T.J. Martell Foundation, which specialized in cancer research, was founded by veteran music executive Tony Martell in honor of his son, who died of the disease in 1975. Over the years it has raised more than $280 million through donations and an annual auction; Martell passed away in 2016 at the age of 90.
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 for concerts by Lady Gaga, Celine Dion and others and Super Bowl LIV, using a Foundation credit card she had obtained in her own name. It states she then provided the tickets to a charity auction house, claiming the Martell foundation had received them at no cost or a discounted rate. It also alleges that she falsified credit card and bank statements to camouflage the purchases. It also states that Goodwin forged the foundation CEO’s signature on checks totaling nearly $1 million.
In addition to falsifying the credit card statements and financial statements, the document states, Goodwin forged the signature of the foundation’s CEO on six checks totaling $966,275.78 that were not approved.
Goodwin had been employed at the Foundation since 2005 and was its executive vice president and general manager from 2018 until July 2020.