ORLANDO, Fla. – Some investors who lost millions of dollars in defunct events run by the head of the Orlando Music Festival claim he deceived them using a pattern of romantic relationships.
James Walker Watson, Jr., was arrested by FBI agents in May after investigators claimed he bilked investors in the Southfork Music Festival near Dallas out of $3 million.
As a result, Watson’s Orlando Music Festival, slated for July fourth weekend, was canceled.
“He took everything we had,” said Marjorie Howell, who lives in Cape Canaveral.
Howell said she and her sister Joan Laskoskie still have not recovered from the failed investment they made in Watson’s Texas Music Festival in Houston in 2007.
“Financially, it’s tough,” Laskoskie told News 6.
Howell said she met Watson through a friend, and the two began dating.
“I (dated him) for about six months until he roped us in completely,” she said. “Then, I realized what was happening, and I felt uneasy. I realized we were in too deep.”
Federal court documents from 2007 show Howell took out a loan using a farm that had been in her family for generations as collateral.
She and her sister gave the money to Watson.
Watson was later convicted of wire fraud for the event, and he spent five years in prison.
Howell and Laskoskie said the family lost the farm and their retirement money – a total of more than $700,000.
“It has totally destroyed the family,” Laskoskie said. “There are parts of the family that don’t even speak anymore. It’s been tough.”
Nancy Lukas claimed he lost her investment more recently in Watson’s Southfork Music Festival in 2020.
“I ended up actually kind of dating him for a while, which I shudder at the thought of,” she told News 6.
She spoke to News 6 from California, where she said she met Watson at another musical event.
She said he flew her to Los Angeles, where he put her up in expensive hotels.
“He ended up ripping me off for almost $300,000, which was my entire inheritance from my father who worked his whole life to earn that,” she said.
She said the FBI had not contacted her.
Howell and Laskoskie said they struggle to make ends meet, and they are not hopeful they will ever see their investment money again, even though they have promissory notes with Watson’s signature.
“When he meets his maker, he is not going to have an attorney there to talk for him,” Laskoskie said. “He’s going to have to stand on his own two feet and take what is coming to him.”
The women said they are concerned there may be more victims like them since Watson was in the process of launching the inaugural Orlando Music Festival.
Watson’s attorney has not responded to News 6′s request for a comment.