A promoter has surrendered to face charges that he tricked thousands of schoolchildren into paying $10 each to attend a holiday show that didn't happen.
David Lee Ellisor walked into the Miami federal courthouse, surrendered to U.S. marshals and was confined to the Federal Detention Center on Tuesday. He had been on the lam since Dec. 3, after federal warrants were issued charging him with mail fraud.
Ellisor, 51, was supposed to put on a "Christmas From Around the World" showcase at the Coconut Grove Convention Center Dec. 3. But no show was awaiting the arriving busloads of Miami-Dade County schoolchildren.
Ellisor allegedly absconded with an estimated $30,000 to $50,000, including $16,000 collected from eight schools in the Catholic Archdiocese of Miami.
Ellisor pleaded poverty in a court appearance Wednesday.
"I came in with a dollar-fifty," he told U.S. Magistrate Judge Patrick White when asked if he could afford a lawyer. He said he lost $23,000 last year, including "all my family's money."
Bank records seized by the FBI show that Ellisor used money from an account set up for the event on such items as lodging, wine, movie rentals and dry cleaning.
Federal authorities say they determined that Ellisor had pulled similar scams in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Salt Lake City and Albuquerque, N.M.
Others who helped Ellisor also ran into trouble. Walt Hines, a part-time art lecturer at the University of Miami _ whose stationery Ellisor used to imply that the show put on by the "Washington, D.C., International Diplomatic Corps" was sponsored by the school and ambassadors from 28 countries _ was fired.
Hines said he, too, was scammed by Ellisor, who promised him $20,000 for his work if the show was a success.