Saturday, April 25, 2009

Indie Indeed

For every independent label that shows promise, it seems there's one that is destined to fail before it starts.

James C. Lestorti, a one-time Elvis impersonator—you can't make this stuff up, folks—faces litigation from family members over the failure of the family's former business, LesCare Kitchens Inc., and a federal lawsuit by people who claim Lestorti swindled them in connection with two music businesses he set up in Nashville, WhiteStar Co-Op Entertainment Inc. and WhiteStar Co-Op Publishing Inc, according to the Hartford Courant.

WhiteStar was home to George Ducas and Nashville Star contestant Jason Meadows on the label side and Danielle Peck on the publishing side. Lestorti also convinced a number of music business veterans to join his ventures.

Employees claim, among other things, that Lestorti borrowed money from them to run the business but instead used it to fund a lavish lifestyle. In one claim, several of the plaintiffs reported that Lestorti used the credit card of his deceased mother to pay a hotel bill in Las Vegas and that when questioned about the name on the card, he told the clerk that his mother was upstairs and told him to use her card to pay the bill. But seriously, folks.

"I think that he's a crook," WhiteStar managing director and Music Row veteran Walt Wilson told WSMV-TV. "I think that he's a fraud."

"I'd say that they need to see a psychiatrist," said Lestorti in response to his former employees' perceptions of him. "We didn't abandon anybody," said Lestorti. He said his label hasn't folded; it's being reorganized in that country music mecca of Miami.

You may remember that it was the aforementioned Hartford Courant that kept Nashvillians up to date on a Connecticut state inquiry into alleged nursing home mismanagement by Raymond Termini, who was accused of  illegally using Medicaid funds to launch independent label Category 5. 

State officials allege the company let bills go unpaid while using company funds to launch the label, which folded in late 2007. Travis Tritt, who was signed to the label, sued Termini for $10 million in damages.

One of the first flags in the Termini debacle was when his label claimed George Jones was on its roster. Umm, no. The label was simply releasing a Jones tribute album of which the Possum had agreed to be a part.

Perhaps the fact that Lestorti was once an Elvis impersonator should have been the red flag that told everyone involved he was a great pretender.