The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs is warning First Nations across the province to stay away from a talent contest that is targeting aboriginal youth and using the name Canadian Idol without permission.
Meanwhile, the company that owns the licence to Canadian Idol says the man behind the purported talent contest, who has a record of several convictions for fraud, must stop misusing its brand.
A CBC News investigation has revealed that a website called First Nations Auditions, run by Paul Pearson, is using the name of the television show and has been soliciting $150 audition fees and promising a $50,000 top prize.
Stewart Phillip, Grand Chief Union of BC Indian Chiefs, had harsh words for Pearson’s contest.
“I think it’s very disgusting, very unethical, very sleazy,” Phillip said.
After hearing what the CBC News investigation had found, Phillip decided to send a warning to all 200 B.C. First Nations about the website and the contest it’s promoting.
“There has to be an awareness this is happening at this time of year,” said Phillip. “I don’t think our young people certainly have $150 to waste on something that just isn't what it appears to be.”
Never audition fees
John Brunton, CEO of Insight Productions and the former executive producer of Canadian Idol, said Pearson’s contest is a scam, noting that there have never been registration or audition fees associated with the Idol franchises.
“For somebody to be taking advantage of unknowing people is really deplorable and I think that if the rights holders found out about this, and I certainly will inform them, that they would really want to go after anybody that is abusing the Idol name,” Brunton said.
Pearson has previously been convicted of fraud in Alberta and is the subject of a Better Business Bureau warning, CBC News has learned.
Angela Reynolds, an aspiring singer from the Stellat'en First Nation, says she was excited when she read that auditions were being held on her tiny reserve in northern B.C. It was billed as a First Nations version of Canadian Idol.
“It said you could win $50,000 and a recording contract and they said … it was like a bus tour and they were going to be visiting reserves across Canada,” she told CBC News.
The website said a $150 registration fee had to be submitted with all applications to audition.
"Should the audition fees not be submitted we are sorry but your name will be removed from those that wish to sing," it said.
But when Reynolds called about the competition all she got were vague answers.
“He couldn't tell me what dates, he couldn't give me an estimate of what dates,” she said.
“I was angry, I was so angry thinking ‘What can I do to stop this?’”
The contest’s website lists Google and Best Western as sponsors, but those companies told CBC News they had never heard of the talent search. The company listed as the tour bus sponsor also told CBC News it was not involved with the contest.
Pearson was convicted and fined under the Trade Practices Act in 2002 for deceiving customers of his log home business. He declared bankruptcy three years later.
The address where aspiring singers are instructed to mail their audition fee is Pearson’s home. He just finished serving 20 months of house arrest after pleading guilty to 17 counts of fraud in Alberta. Pearson scammed dozens of exhibitors out of thousands of dollars for entry into a phony trade show.
The Better Business Bureau has issued a warning about him and his aliases.
Juno-award winning artist Kinnie Starr, who mentors aspiring aboriginal musicians, cautions people to be wary of anything promising overnight success.
“I'm concerned about anyone getting scammed, but it’s buyer beware and you need to do your research,” she said.
“People are on to him [Pearson] and it's only a matter of time that people discover in full force what he is doing.”
When contacted by CBC News, Pearson said he was too busy to do an interview in person.
However, he said in an email the discrepancies on his website were just mistakes, saying Google and Best Western should have been listed as “preferred companies” instead of sponsors. The contest’s website has since been changed.
The tour bus sponsor was also listed in error, said Pearson, who now claims that a late-model motorhome without licence plates sitting in his backyard is the vehicle he’ll use for the country-wide talent search.
Pearson said “not one penny” had been received from anyone looking to audition, adding his personal business was putting up the prize money.
Pearson says he has successfully conducted 54 trade shows across Canada and the U.S. over the past 30 years, saying the fraud charges in Alberta were the result of a difficult economy.
Pearson went on to say he expected to book auditions in 140 First Nations communities across Canada and has the support of several First Nations-owned radio stations.
Also on HuffPost:
Bad Process Server
According to Mitch Zarskey, of Piney Point Village, Texas, his surveillance cameras captured a process server urinating in his driveway on Sept. 29, 2013. <strong>Watch the video here:</strong> <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/03/mitch-zarskey-process-server_n_4038044.html?1380821535" target="_blank">www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/03/mitch-zarskey-process-server_n_4038044.html</a>
Man Returns Used Enemas
Federal prosecutors say Ronald Robinson returned used enemas to a pharmacy in Jacksonville, Fla. The products were resold to customers before workers discovered they had been tampered with. Robinson could be imprisoned for 10 years if convicted.
Illicit Manatee Riding
This unidentified woman may have had a great time catching a ride on the back of a manatee in Florida, but, unfortunately, it's a misdemeanor in violation of the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/02/manatee-riding-woman-photo-crime_n_1933672.html?utm_hp_ref=weird-news" target="_hplink">Read the whole story here.</a>
Alleged Violent Naked Pooping Masturbator
Gregory Matthew Bruni, 21, is accused of getting naked and climbing onto a couple's roof, then assaulting one of the homeowners before pooping and masturbating inside the house. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/23/gregory-matthew-bruni-naked-poop-masturbate-florida_n_2533967.html?utm_hp_ref=weird-news">Read the whole story here.</a>
Brandi Lynn Stuntebeck
Stuntebeck, 31, allegedly attempted to flee after crashing into the back of another car in Ohio. The driver of that car, Donald Brownlee, followed her, leading Stuntebeck to pull over. But when he leaned through her passenger window, she drove off again dragging him for nearly a mile, according to police. He eventually fell and the car ran over his ankle.
When McDonald was accused by Seattle police of flashing a woman while masturbating in a park, <a href="http://www.seattlepi.com/local/article/Alleged-Seattle-park-masturbator-I-was-getting-3878136.php" target="_hplink">he told authorities</a> he was just getting "some sun."
After ramming into a deputy's patrol vehicle, this 18-year-old was handcuffed and thrown into the back seat. But not for long. She allegedly managed to escape from the cuffs, get into the driver's seat, and lead authorities on a chase that lasted a half hour and reached speeds up to 100 mph before the stolen SUV went off the road and flipped over. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/25/shelby-figueroa-steals-car_n_1913973.html?1348604615" target="_hplink">Read the whole story here. </a>
William H. Masters III
This undated photo provided by the Huron County Sheriff shows William Howell Masters III, 60, of South Hampton, N.Y. Masters, the son of sex research pioneer Dr. William H. Masters, has been charged with exposing himself to a sheriff's deputy and another woman who were posing as recreational kayakers as part of a sting operation on a Michigan river. Huron County Sheriff Kelly Hanson says a completely nude Masters yelled for the women's attention Saturday, Sept. 1, 2012, then made obscene gestures. (AP Photo/Huron County Sheriff)
'Rules 2 Da game of Hoez!!!'
Sandra Russell and Steve McDaniel allegedly had a list of pimp game rules with them when they were arrested on charges of drugs and prostitution. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/15/pimp-rules-list-for-da-game-of-hoez_n_1778493.html?utm_hp_ref=crime" target="_hplink">READ THIS LIST.</a>
This budding martial artist allegedly told deputies she was the "Karate Kid" before biting and slapping them
A DJ allegedly broke into the homes of men he saw at clubs and parties and performed oral sex on them as they slept, according to police in Pennsylvania. Harrisburg police said that Dajuan Porter, 27, stalked three men and sexually assaulted them in their homes, according to WHP-TV.
He allegedly lit a toilet on fire at a gas station. For religious reasons. After huffing 10 cans of Reddi-wip. Because the U.S. Constitution says he can. 'Nuff said.
Why is this man's head on fire? Because he lit it on fire. Bonner allegedly bet his bar buddies that he could pour a shot of 151 on his head and light the alcohol. And he did. Great job!
Ilyass Nabih and Thony Sengsoulya
Ilyass Nabih and Thony Sengsoulya, both of Nashua, New Hampshire, were arrested on drug charges in June 2012 after authorities spotted them allegedly trying to shoot up heroin while parked outside the Lawrence Police Station in Massachusetts.
<a href="http://www.seattlepi.com/local/article/Charge-Coffee-stand-masturbator-caught-again-3656307.php" target="_hplink">Mishkov is accused</a> of masturbating in front of a jail employee on his way to court to face a previous flashing charge.
Ray Woods allegedly tied 89 bags of heroin and cocaine to his penis. When cops found him out, he reportedly urinated all over himself. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/12/89-bags-of-heroin-tied-to-penis_n_1420733.html" target="_hplink">Read more.</a>
He had a real sweet tooth. Cops say they found 22-year-old Andrew Toothman lying down inside Kentucky Food World IGA market on Feb. 2, completely covered in chocolate and peanut butter. He'd also allegedly written "Sorry" in NyQuil on the floor. Read more <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/09/naked-chocolate-peanut-butter_n_1265639.html" target="_hplink">here.</a>
Timothy Paul Shelby
Shelby, 53, was arrested in South Florida on June 1, 2012 for driving without a license -- immediately after leaving a courthouse after he appeared for the same offense.
Levon Davis used a picture of his girlfriend for target practice with his rifle. That's not illegal -- but it is against the law to accidentally shoot that bullet into your neighbor's house. He was charged with negligent use of a firearm.