Chad Arrington, a SEO specialist who funded his nascent rap career as Chad Focus using a company credit card, pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland announced today.
As part of the plea deal, Arrington was ordered to pay $4.1 million in restitution–the amount he used to buy billboards, studio equipment and the services of companies that would inflate the streaming numbers of his rap music, among other expenses.
Arrington, 32, is scheduled to be sentenced on May 14 and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
An older LinkedIn page for Arrington listed his employer–only referred to in a news release “Company 1″–as Money Map Press, a subsidiary of the local financial publishing giant The Agora Companies. The page has since been deleted.
Arrington admitted to using the credit card from his job to make purchases from four different co-conspirators, who would then kick back hundreds of thousands of dollars to the rapper, federal prosecutors said. He used the card to spend $1.5 million with entities controlled by two of the co-conspirators, who then kicked back hundreds of thousands of dollars.
He tried to cover his tracks at work by having two unnamed co-conspirators falsify authorizations for the credit card payments and edit the statement to make them seem legit.
After that, Arrington forged the signature of his supervisor to make it look like the purchases had been approved. Employees would then pay off the balance of the credit card.
From January 2015 to August 2018, Arrington spent more than $300,000 on travel, including flights, hotels and visits to bars and clubs. He also spent $100,000 on branded apparel with “Focus” on it, which he then gave out for free.
The paid boost in Focus’ online profile resulted in some staggering numbers. The music video for the song “Get to the Money” has 4.4 million views, and Focus’ Instagram account still has 178,000 followers. The song “Dance With Me” was even able to land a spot on the Billboard Dance Club Song chart in April 2018, placing 47th and peaking at 40th.
But the numbers for other songs and profiles were paltry by comparison. His Facebook page only has a little more than 32,000 likes and went dark in October 2018.
The Instagram account for Arrington’s company, Focus Music Entertainment, only had 328 followers and hasn’t been active since March 2018.
According to an indictment from last June, Arrington’s employer began to suspect something was awry as far back as 2016. That August, he wrote an email to one of his co-conspirators saying his boss was asking for credit card statements. His account would be suspended if it was not received by midnight on Aug. 9, and if it wasn’t in by noon on Aug. 10, Arrington would be permanently suspended and fired from his contract.
“Please bro move mountains for me,” he wrote. “I would send you more Money if need be but all my invoices I paid for you through the same statement account.”
A different email, in March 2017, provided instructions on how to make the file of the edited credit card statement appear the same as the original, according to the indictment.
His job with the company ended in August 2018.
This story has been updated.
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