The allegations against Nathan Scuderi, founder of a fake Montreal festival, Aurora, have caused consternation among his former collaborators, many of whom have turned to the police since last Thursday.
Graphic designer, videographer, social media manager, artists, promoters: they are now convinced that their time and money have been stolen by the Cenari Group in recent months. The event agency no longer has a website since Friday and its head is unreachable.
The general manager of Cenari, Kyllian Mahieu, has filed a complaint with the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) and has been trying since last Thursday to clear his name. He learned about the existence of Aurora around the same time as everyone else. It was then that he understood that the scam was linked to his name, he who founded the company with Nathan Scuderi in 2022. He has been trying to dissociate himself from it since last January, when he realized for the first time that his business partner was unreliable.
Following his complaint, an investigation was opened on Saturday by the SPVM, confirmed Kyllian Mahieu. “I decided to be optimistic,” he said. I do the best I can to prove my good faith. Now it is in the hands of justice. »
He is also the one who allowed the site to be closed: he says he convinced one of the people still linked to the company, “after long negotiations”, to give him restricted access to the platform.
Whether they were business partners, spouses, friends or freelancers, the list of people who say they have been wronged by the young entrepreneur has been growing ever since he hit the headlines. Nathan Scuderi would have been involved in a series of scams since 2019, according to an investigation published by La Presse last Friday1.
According to our information, many Cenari employees have filed a complaint with the SPVM since Thursday, but most have been redirected to a civil court since the dispute – unpaid sums – stems from an employment or service contract.
In another case, a man filed a complaint against Nathan Scuderi on Friday at the Régie intermunicipale de police Richelieu-Saint-Laurent, a spokesperson confirmed. The plaintiff claims to have been defrauded of some $15,000 in a business partnership. The file will be transmitted shortly to the investigation office.
Regarding the fake festival itself, announced for June in the Old Port, “the SPVM has received only a very small number of complaints”, according to a spokesperson.
Since the beginning of October, Nicolas Saavedra-Fusinato, who dances and sings under the alias Nick Saanto, was notably in charge of organizing Fun Factory, a first evening promoted by Cenari which was to take place on February 18 at the Bain Mathieu , to Montreal.
He crossed paths with Nathan Scuderi while working at Le Date bar in the Village. “I saw that Cenari was looking for employees to organize queer events. I wrote to him to see if I was a good fit for the company and vice versa. “Everything indicated that yes…
Nick Saanto says he spent “at least 80 hours” planning the dance party. However, towards the end of January, he says, Nathan Scuderi would have called him to tell him that Fun Factory was canceled.
Nick Saanto says he agreed to work on the postponement of the evening, for which he had already drawn up the program, but was surprised by his boss that he had not received any salary in more than three months of work. Mr. Scuderi would then have promised him an advance. This would never have happened. “Nor any other financial compensation”, he regrets today.
Nick Saanto says he still struggles to know if he was working on real or fictional events. But on Wednesday, when the entire Cenari team had access to the social networks of Fun Factory and Scandalous Drag Brunch, another queer event imagined by Nathan Scuderi, removed, the die was cast, he says. “It was my first big contract, but this is an experience that tarnishes my name and, I feel like, takes away credibility from people I respect. »
A graphic designer, who requested anonymity for fear of professional repercussions, explains that he worked dozens of hours on various projects launched by Nathan Scuderi, including the erotic art fair Sexposition, which was to be held on 25 and March 26 at Bain Mathieu.
“He ripped us off so much,” the visual artist says over the phone.
Including his equipment and his fees, the graphic designer and videographer estimates his financial losses at more than $15,000.
Another ex-business partner of Scuderi, who wished to keep her name silent for the same reasons, told La Presse that she had invested many hours of work for the Sexposition event, without ever being paid.
Nathan Scuderi, she says with screenshots in support, recruits in particular on social networks and promises incredible profits – for example tens of thousands of dollars for a weekend fashion fair – to those who would associate themselves with him. “When he presented his business plan to me, I realized that it didn’t make sense,” explains the one who wanted to take her first steps in events. After leaving the ship, she says she learned that Scuderi had simply continued working on Sexposition with another partner.
On Friday afternoon, the management of Bain Mathieu announced the definitive cancellation of the “7th Sexposition” due to “unfortunate events related to the Cenari Group”.
As for those who bought tickets or exhibition walls for Sexposition, complainants claim to have been told by the police that they cannot be considered victims until after the dates scheduled for the event.
Photographer Arielle Livernoche, who does nudes among other genres, is among the artists who had reserved a wall for Sexposition, at the suggestion of a friend. After doing some research on the Cenari Group, she says she agreed to meet Nathan Scuderi at Café Cherrier, rue Saint-Denis, to sign a contract on Tuesday, March 7.
“He insisted that he liked my work very, very much. He wanted to sell me more than one wall. He ended up saying, “I’ll give you two, but you’ll just pay for one.” »
To pay the sum, $402.50 for two days of exposure, the photographer explains that she offered him an Interac transfer. “Cash would be better,” the organizer reportedly replied, pointing to an ATM machine in a convenience store across the street. “I understood why he chose that cafe. He even offered to reimburse the cost of the machine. »
After hesitating, she says she agreed to withdraw the money and give it to him. Nathan Scuderi would then have paid the bill – two cups of tea – at the Café Cherrier, would have walked away before leaving running to the Mont-Royal metro station. “It wasn’t even subtle. »
The young man had just launched the fake musical date Aurora the weekend before. Arielle Livernoche says that during the meeting, Nathan Scuderi slipped to her that he was returning from New York, where he had supposedly signed contracts for a music festival with, among others, Doja Cat headlining. She understood, a few days later in the media, that he was talking about Aurora.
Neither La Presse nor anyone she spoke to has been able to reach Nathan Scuderi since last Thursday.
“We are seeing more and more [Aurora Festival] type frauds,” says Fyscillia Ream, scientific coordinator of the Cybercrime Prevention Research Chair and doctoral student at the School of Criminology at the Université de Montréal. .
“Overall, fraud always evolves according to social and political contexts,” says Ms. Ream. For example, at the moment, with the housing crisis, we have a lot more housing fraud. Also, people are starting to come out, planning to go to concerts, festivals, so they want to take advantage of opportunities like this. »
The social media factor plays a big role in the reach of a scam, especially because people tend to pay less attention than when they see advertising on a website, for example. “We can have comments under the publications to say that the product is great, which comes to play on the enthusiasm, explains Fyscillia Ream. We also manage to reach a lot more people, because it targets everyone. »
Important reminder for those who come across events that are a little too good to be true, but look legit: “Anyone with a bit of tech savvy can create a fake social media account and website internet,” says Éric Parent, cybercrime expert and president of cybersecurity firm EVA-Technologies.
“It doesn’t cost a lot of money, even if you pay for advertising for more visibility,” adds Fyscillia Ream. So even if a few tickets at $300 each are sold, it’s already very profitable for the little effort it requires. »
The two experts advise with the same voice to do a lot of research as soon as you have the slightest doubt about an event or a product sold online. For the Aurora festival, for example, it was enough to consult the websites of the artists in the program to realize that some would not even be available on the dates announced. And if the artist’s site does not display the event, it’s a bad sign, adds Éric Parent. It is imperative to turn to secure platforms to obtain tickets, such as, precisely, the official sites of the artists, or the known sales sites.
Another advice given by the two cybersecurity specialists: make sure that the payment method allows a refund in the event of a glitch. Most credit cards will have insurance that will give you the opportunity to get your money back, but “an Interac transfer is not the best idea,” says Eric Parent. This kind of fraud is not likely to diminish, he believes. The consumer must be extra careful.