The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Joseph Hokai Tang, a 28-year-old native of Ottawa who had gone into business as a violin dealer in addition to performing, is accused of cheating various customers in North America, Europe and Japan — by selling instruments and bows left on consignment and keeping the proceeds for himself, shipping to customers cheaper instruments than the ones they had paid for, falsely claiming to have paid invoices or refunded money, and so on.
The U.S. District Court in San Francisco indicted Tang last week on eight counts of mail fraud and two counts of wire fraud, all allegedly committed between April 2002 and the end of 2006, according to the Chronicle. Each charge is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Tang operated his business from the San Francisco Bay Area, apparently beginning sometime around the year 2000. One alleged victim, Bob Ng, told the paper that he had given Tang about $150,000 worth of violins and bows on consignment to sell; Ng alleges that Tang avoided repeated requests for payment and ultimately disappeared at the end of 2006, whereupon Ng went to the authorities.
Evidently Tang returned to Ottawa, at least briefly, as a photograph of him appeared in The Ottawa Citizen in early 2007. He subsequently enrolled in the University of Oregon School of Music in Eugene as a graduate student — and when police tracked him there, they found that the address under which Tang had registered actually belonged to the University's Beall Concert Hall. This is why they were waiting backstage after the University Symphony Orchestra's concert on November 28 to arrest Tang, who was playing in the violin section.
"We didn't want to ruin the show," Eugene police officer Chris White told the Chronicle. "It was actually a really good concert."
Tang is reportedly free on bail.