Ex-Manager, Two Family Members Plead Guilty to Royalty Scam

It’s a good thing Marsha Aiken is no apparent relation to successful pop singer Clay Aiken. If she is, she’d probably keep quiet about it. For four years she and close relatives seemed on their way to amassing music-industry riches. What they wound up with was unwanted fame. Aiken had been royalty manager for the Songwriters Guild of America (SGA), a Nashville, Tenn.-based union representing some 5,000 songwriters and estates. She engineered a scheme to siphon nearly $1.25 million from the SGA through a satellite office in Weehawken, N.J. On September 7, the scam met its end in federal court in Brooklyn, N.Y. Aiken, 54, a resident of Brooklyn, standing before U.S. District Judge Joseph A. Greenaway, Jr., pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit embezzlement. Her daughter, Nicole Williams, 27, already had pleaded guilty on August 30 to conspiracy charges, and Aiken’s nephew, Anthony Ray, 33, pled guilty to tax evasion the day before.        


More than a year ago, in July 2005, the federal government filed a civil suit against Aiken and other defendants in relation to missing royalties dating back to August 2001. The suit was pursuant to a joint investigation by the FBI, the IRS and the U.S. Postal Service. The scheme began to unravel when a Rhode Island bank, in compliance with reporting regulations, notified the IRS that Anthony Ray cashed an SGA check for more than $10,000. In June 2005, the IRS contacted an SGA executive, pointing out that the recipient of the cashed check, Ray, was related to Aiken. After conducting an internal probe, the SGA fired Aiken. 

Aiken, who faces a five-year prison sentence, created a fraudulent membership account in the name of Anthony Ray, writing unauthorized royalty checks to him and Williams from an SGA account meant to disburse payments to songwriters with unknown current whereabouts. Aiken admitted that she transferred funds from this account to bank accounts in the names of Ray and Williams who wound up collecting, respectively, $802,721 and $444,791. The probe may not yet be through. In August 2005, the federal court issued an injunction prohibiting Aiken, Ray, Michael Levy, Monique Aiken Adams and anyone “in active concert” with these persons from selling a certain property in St. Albans, N.Y., which the SGA says was bought with embezzled funds. It’s an Aiken family affair, all right. (Associated Press, 9/8/06; New York Times, 9/8/06).