WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – A booking agent who cheated Magic Johnson (search), Andy Rooney (search) and dozens of other celebrities out of their speaking fees was sentenced Thursday to five years in federal prison.
Alan Walker showed no emotion as he was sentenced in U.S. District Court. But earlier, he tearfully told Judge Colleen McMahon, "As poor as my conduct was, it really is not who I am and how I've lived most of my life."
Walker had managed for years to elude the duped celebrities, their lawyers, their collection agencies and even Rooney's "60 Minutes" camera crew when they tried to get their money. He has been in custody since violating bail conditions in March, so he will remain in prison until March 2010 — when he will be 72.
Walker, president of Program Corp. of America, was convicted in April of 60 counts of fraud and one of conspiracy. Among the witnesses against him were Johnson, Rooney, James Earl Jones and Erin Brockovich.
Defense lawyers said Walker was doing what he could to keep his business afloat, but prosecutors said he blatantly bilked the speakers he represented out of hundreds of thousands of dollars by failing to turn over their cut of the speaking fee after a school or association had paid it.
In the case of poet Nikki Giovanni, he never even told her she was booked. As the date approached, he told the school that had paid for her that she was sick and might not make it.
Walker ignored messages, made false promises, and offered outlandish excuses for his failure to pay, falsely claiming he was traveling to Australia or undergoing prostate surgery, prosecutors said.
Astronaut Scott Carpenter, another victim, said he once received a partial payment — but that check bounced.