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Wu-Tang scam lands pair in prison after unraveling in Augusta

From left: Aaron Barnes-Burpo and Walker Washington
From left: Aaron Barnes-Burpo and Walker Washington(WRDW)
Published: Apr. 29, 2021 at 10:22 AM EDT|Updated: Apr. 29, 2021 at 10:49 AM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - An Augusta man has been sentenced to more than eight years in federal prison for his role in a scheme to steal hospitality services by claiming to be part of a famed rap group.

Walker Washington, 53, was sentenced to 100 months in prison by U.S. District Court Judge Dudley H. Bowen after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, said David H. Estes, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia.

Washington also was ordered to pay nearly $300,000 to 19 businesses defrauded in the scheme, and must serve three years of supervised release after completion of his prison term. There is no parole in the federal system.

Co-defendant Aaron Barnes-Burpo, 29, of Crestview, Fla., previously was sentenced to 84 months in prison after also pleading guilty, and also must pay restitution to the businesses victimized in the scheme.

“These two flim-flam artists and their phony entourage lived large for several weeks by scamming hospitality providers,” Estes said. “We commend the skeptical hotel clerk who saw through the scam and alerted law enforcement, bringing this scheme to a halt.”

In court documents and testimony, Washington and Barnes-Burpo admitted they falsely portrayed themselves as affiliated with the Roc Nation production company and the hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan as early as September 2019. They used those fictitious representations along with fraudulent and stolen credit cards to rent luxury limousines and defraud hotels, caterers and production studios of thousands of dollars in goods and services in multiple cities, primarily in the Southeast.

The scam unraveled Nov. 21, 2019, when staff at the Fairfield Inn and Suites in Augusta became suspicious and alerted the FBI and the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office.

“These two scammers will have plenty of time to figure out if their few weeks of unearned fame was worth several years in prison,” said Chris Hacker, special agent in Charge of the FBI in Atlanta. “With this sentence, law enforcement and the victims of their scam, have spoken loudly that we won’t tolerate anyone who takes anything they do not earn or deserve.”

The case was investigated by the FBI and other state and local authorities, and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Patricia G. Rhodes.

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