It was supposed to be the hottest music event of VMAs weekend.
Wannabe music industry insider Matt Forester promised he would gather a host of superstars — from J.Lo and The Weeknd to 50 Cent — at the posh Mondrian Park Avenue for an awards-show-related bash like none since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
“It’s basically the whole VMA talent pool,” he bragged to Page Six on Aug. 13, before the event.
The fast-talking Canadian was so convincing he got record exec Scott Koeppel to pay thousands to sponsor the weekend-long event, claiming it would be featured on MTV’s Video Music Awards, which aired on Aug. 30.
But instead of an affair to remember, Forester’s VMA party turned out to be a fraud some are calling the “Manhattan Fyre Festival.”
The celebrities didn’t show, MTV was not involved and the whole event — which even featured a red carpet with a bogus VMA sign — was finally busted up by the cops for being too loud.
“[Forester] lied about everything,” said Koeppel, the CEO of Run It Up Recordings — a two-year-old hip-hop and pop label that works with artists including Bamby, Chris Miles and DJ Whoo Kid.
He had jumped at the opportunity to have his talent take part in one of music’s biggest nights. “We were going to be b-roll [for the live show],” Koeppel said Forester told him. “My artists would be on the screen. He said a MTV film crew was going to follow us around for the whole weekend.”
By agreeing to be part of the festivities, Koeppel believes he was conned out of nearly $50,000 in what he has dubbed the “Manhattan Fyre Festival” — in a nod to the disastrous 2017 music fest.
In response to the allegations, Forester denied wrongdoing and said Koeppel is “creating his own reality.”
“Nobody said to him there would be MTV cameras,” he told us Monday. “What I said to him was very clearly, ‘I think what we could probably do is get a b-roll follow system, so when you come in, would you like to have a camera there? And then you could use that internally.'”
But Page Six has talked to several other participants in the event who also say they were duped and obtained emails and text messages that suggest Koeppel may have been misled.
An email from Forester read, “MTV will require exclusive use of the boardroom beginning Thursday evening for talent holding, makeup, hair and wardrobe. We will place the signage indicating such on the door.”
In August, Forester also told Page Six via text that the Mondrian event was part of a “series of venues around the city and Burroughs trying to figure out how to somehow film live performances so Viacom can throw them together since we got thrown out of the Barclays Center.” The show was initially slated to be held at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, but plans changed over safety concerns and many segments were pre-recorded or outdoors.
Koeppel was one of many industry insiders and news outlets, including Page Six, that Forester invited to the Mondrian festivities from Aug. 29 and Aug. 30.
How the event fell apart
DJ Whoo Kid, a SiriusXM DJ signed to G-Unit Records and a hip-hop industry vet, works as an A&R executive for Koeppel’s label and agreed to participate in Forester’s weekend because he saw it as a good opportunity to network with big stars in the Latin music market.
After being told that 50 Cent, a longtime friend, was scheduled to DJ too, Whoo Kid said he contacted the rapper’s production manager to coordinate efforts.
But a rep for 50 Cent confirmed his team was “unaware of this event.”
Whoo Kid said he relayed his concerns about the weekend to Koeppel the Thursday before the VMAs but Koeppel said he was already too “knee-deep” in sponsorship money to pull out.
On Aug. 29, when Koeppel and Whoo Kid arrived at the Mondrian, another red flag was raised when there was no official MTV producer present.
“There’s nobody to take our luggage, there’s nothing from the VMAs on the hotel at all,” Koeppel said.
The hotel lobby was somber due to the shortage of guests amid the pandemic, and just one employee was visible at the front desk when guests arrived.
Before retreating to his room, Koeppel scoped out the 15th floor, where performances were supposed to take place.
The furniture in the interior part of the floor had been cleared, but the outdoor space where the performances were to be held only had a few men with black roadie cases standing around.
“They wouldn’t set up because [Forester] didn’t pay the bill, but they didn’t tell me that,” Koeppel said. “So he comes outside asking for my credit card.”
According to Koeppel, Forester told him the stage hadn’t been set up due to rain delays — despite no precipitation for the past two hours.
Forester then allegedly requested to put a charge on hold on Koeppel’s credit card for the hotel rooms.
At that point, Koeppel told us he had already paid $11,946 for all of his and his artists’ rooms. He also paid $10,887 for the sponsorship, which another source said was split evenly between the Mondrian and Forester.
Page Six was provided with financial documents that confirm Koeppel made the payments to the hotel.
Koeppel said he later found out that Forester charged him an additional $3,638 to “pay the stage people to set up the stage,” adding that if MTV really were involved, the network should have forked over the cash.
A source told us the hotel plans to reimburse Koeppel for that charge in good faith.
A rep for MTV declined to comment for this story, as it appears the network was not involved with the event weekend whatsoever.
With no celeb sightings at the hotel as the supposedly A-list dinner drew closer, speculation that the entire event was a hoax began to grow among the guests.
Forester repeatedly told Page Six in weeks leading up to the event that Lopez, The Weeknd, Maluma and others would attend, but the talent never arrived.
A source has now confirmed to Page Six that Lopez, 51, was never aware of the event and not set to attend.
A rep for Maluma, 26, told us, “Maluma was always scheduled under strict directions and rules to be in New York City only for the VMAs under MTV’s guidelines and supervision. He was never set to be anywhere else outside of his VMA participation booked by MTV.”
The Weeknd’s reps did not return our request for comment.
The private dinner celebrated music video directors Jessy and Ulysses Terrero. A group of 10 well-dressed guests were escorted to a lower level of the hotel, where they gathered at an elongated table for custom drinks and food.
Barry Mullineaux, a well-known nightclub owner who ran New York hotspots like Greenhouse and Juliet, told Page Six that Forester contacted him to offer the Mondrian to host the Terrero dinner.
He also confirmed that Forester’s claims about Lopez, Maluma and The Weeknd were “not true at all.” A rep for the Terreros said Forester was never told A-list talent would be at the dinner.
A source told us Bacardi, the rum company, paid for the dinner, which totaled $1,400.
“Jessy and Ulysses would never leverage any of their relationships with Jennifer, Maluma or any other talent,” the insider said. “They made it very clear that they couldn’t guarantee any celebrities would come to the dinner because they weren’t even in town.”
During dinner, Forester was hard to get ahold of, claiming he was busy doing “a million things.”
After dinner, guests were taken to the hotel’s terrace floor.
Johnny Donovan, a publicist who has worked with MTV talent, was seen handling the guest list at the door that night. A source told Page Six they were informed that Donovan was set to be MTV’s official rep on site, but we confirmed he is not directly involved with the network.
Donovan told Page Six he is “dumbfounded” by the situation, and said he never told Forester or anyone else he was a MTV employee.
“I was just being brought on to help at the door,” he said. “I’m shocked that my name is going around like this. I’m not sure if I should sue [Forester] for defamation.”
Donovan claims Forester told him he was being hired for an “official MTV event” and that his room at the Mondrian would be comped, but said he was never even paid for working the door.
“I’ve literally been chasing this guy for money,” Donovan told us. “He promised me he’d pay me, and I got stuck with a $1,300 Mondrian Park Avenue bill for my room.”
“Once I see that I’m in my slippers, DJing, smoking weed, I’m like, ‘Alright, this is bulls—t.”
Whoo Kid agreed to play that night from the balcony, but could tell it wasn’t an official MTV event when he realized how lax things were.
“There’s no moving around doing whatever you want at any kind of MTV situation,” Whoo Kid, who has attended previous VMA events, told us. “The accessibility was just ridiculous. Once I see that I’m in my slippers, DJing, smoking weed, I’m like, ‘All right, this is bulls—t.”
The clueless guests partied until around 11 p.m., when they were told that police were arriving to shut down the party due to noise complaints.
Forester appeared panicked as he pulled down his face mask and made the announcement that “NYPD is entering this floor.” Guests then scrambled to leave.
A source told us all three complaints came from neighbors outside of the hotel.
NYPD confirmed to Page Six that officers responded to a call at 11:20 p.m. on Aug. 29, but it was marked “unnecessary.” Some guests had already gone up to the penthouse floor to continue the party, while others went home.
Koeppel was seen shouting, visibly upset that not a single MTV camera had been spotted all night, the party he paid for was getting shut down, and his sponsorship money appeared to be spent in vain.
The next morning, the day of the VMAs, word began to spread that Forester’s main event for the weekend could be called off altogether — and it was.
Koeppel and another source alleged Forester told them that MTV was to blame for the event falling through, and Koeppel claims Forester tried to convince him to still host the event, despite MTV’s lack of involvement.
Page Six was told the hotel decided to pull the plug because Saturday’s event was close to violating social distancing guidelines, and the Mondrian did not want to run that risk again. But a source confirmed to us that the hotel “never called off anything.”
Stephen Brandman, CEO of Journal Hotels, said on behalf of Mondrian Park Avenue, “As far as the hotel goes, Matt just sent people to us that booked rooms, dinners or spaces with us. We never were involved with MTV and we never promoted it as having anything to do with MTV.”
Brandman told us of Forester, “We don’t know what Matthew told people, but we, at the hotel, never promoted some sort of MTV event. Now, I’m not saying Matthew didn’t.”
Brandman also confirmed that Forester has never been an official employee of the Mondrian Park Avenue.
Meanwhile, Forester admitted to Page Six that “about 48 hours” before the dinner, the alleged star-studded guest list had already “started to dwindle.”
“It became very clear that we were not going to be able to ascertain any talent,” he said. “Because we sent a boomerang out and the boomerang didn’t come back.”
He said he did not notify Koeppel because it “fell through the cracks.”
Forester claimed to have emails and documents that showed they attempted to book celeb talent for the event, but did not provide Page Six with any documented evidence.
How Forester gained everyone’s trust
Forester, who also goes by the name Matt Starr, began cultivating relationships with industry insiders months ahead of the VMA event, Page Six has learned.
Music producer Corey Regensburg, also known as Moon Bounce, believes he and his wife, singer Push Push, were one of the first targets of Forester’s plan.
The producer said Forester contacted his wife via Instagram DM, claiming to also work in the music industry. At the time, she was working on new music with Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee.
“Anyone that’s connected to anything appetizing or sexy in his mind, he makes it seem as if he is the connection,” Regensburg told us.
“Anyone that’s connected to anything appetizing or sexy in his mind, he makes it seem as if he is the connection.”
Regensburg said Push Push and Forester began to build a rapport.
On Instagram, Forester did not share any photos of his middle-aged, bearded self, but rather just random images. In his bio, he had tagged Endeavor, a reputable talent agency, and told several sources he is affiliated with them.
An Endeavor spokesperson confirmed to Page Six that Forester is not — and does not appear to have ever been — an employee.
Forester told us in response to Endeavor’s statement, “No comment.”
Earlier this year, Forester saw DJ Whoo Kid at a party hosted by Mullineaux.
At that gathering, Whoo Kid said Forester asked him to participate in a virtual COVID-19 fundraiser on May 15 to benefit New York-Presbyterian hospital, to be held at the Mondrian.
“I thought I was just doing something for the hospital, because he caught me at a time where, you know, it was really f—ked up out there,” Whoo Kid said. “All the hospital workers or anybody who is a first responder was getting sick, so I used my radio show to promote it.”
He added, “The only reason I really dealt with him was because of Barry [Mullineaux]. I’ve been dealing with Barry for 20 years, like, I’ve DJed his legendary clubs … As far as money, deals, Barry is A1. Never had an issue, so I trusted him.”
Mullineaux told Page Six he met Forester 10 years ago in Toronto, but they “don’t work together.”
The nightclub owner said they only became reacquainted when Forester allegedly reached out about the hospital event that Mullineaux was already organizing.
A source told us the Mondrian just “provided the space” under the conditions that they would “stay within government guidelines and regulations.”
“Everything happened the way it was supposed to from an event standpoint,” the source added.
Koeppel said his wife donated about “two to three thousand dollars” to the cause, and he met Forester for the first time through the event.
A rep for NewYork-Presbyterian hospital declined to comment for this story.
Forester then contacted Whoo Kid a second time to host another charity event for the Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation at the Mondrian on May 24.
Whoo Kid agreed and was told that he would interview several stars for the livestream.
Through Moon Bounce and his wife, Forester arranged for Whoo Kid to interview Tommy Lee on Instagram Live. However, all of the other celebs “fell through.”
“I’m looking at [Forester] like, ‘Yo, I’m never doing this again. Because you were, like, super unorganized,'” Whoo Kid said. “It’s not only embarrassing, but this is really wack.”
A rep for the Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation confirmed “Matt Starr” reached out to them in May. They were unable to confirm the exact amount that was brought in through that event.
Forester said all donations were made through Instagram.
For the VMAs weekend, Koeppel alleged Forester told him Universal Music Group had the initial contract to be the official VMA sponsor, which enticed him to want to take the deal.
A rep for UMG told Page Six, “We are not aware of this individual nor the alleged event.”
Whoo Kid added of Koeppel being duped, “[Forrester is] a scam artist. He knows how to manipulate.”
“I found this all out after everything went to s—t,” Koeppel said. “It’s been nothing but lies and bulls—t.”
Forester maintains that he is innocent, telling us, “I don’t deal with nightlife scum — this is why I don’t. I find it obnoxious that somehow the New York Post becomes the trial, jury and executioner.”
Forester’s alleged shady past
After a series of suspicious events this past summer, insiders have discovered numerous blogs that accuse Forester, who is originally from Canada, of a history of shady behavior dating back to the early 2000s.
A source told us, “His scams are well-planned. He always stays just far enough from fraud to ensure that people have to do civil suits, which are slow, expensive and never work. The police are very aware of him as everyone scammed that I know has filed a report, this includes businesses, landlords, ex-girlfriends, etc.”
According to one of the blogs, Forester allegedly uses aliases like Matthew Kostiner and Matthew Jeremy Berry, and often relocates.
Forester told us the blogs are an example of “cyber-bullying.”
NYPD would not confirm whether they are investigating Forester for any crimes.
A spokesperson for the the FBI told Page Six, “Per longstanding DOJ policy, the FBI does not confirm or deny the existence of investigations.”
However, Page Six obtained court documents that show Forester had a court ruling against him in 2006. He was ordered to pay $26,7000 to ex Christina Barrios after, as she said in her deposition, Forester “made numerous charges to my American Express Card account” that were “without my knowledge or authorization.”
Forester told us it was a situation of “two people go on vacation and who is responsible to pay it,” claiming he and Barrios “settled it between us amicably.”
Koeppel told us he also plans to pursue legal action against Forester for his alleged VMA weekend scam, but doesn’t expect to get his money back.
Forester insists he did not receive a single “dollar” for the VMA event.
“I didn’t get one dollar out of this,” Forester alleged. “I did all of this work, and I was supposed to get a commission, and I got nothing because Scott didn’t pay his bill, the hotel claims. So they said, because he didn’t pay his bill, I don’t get a commission.”
Page Six received copies of checks that Koeppel made out to the hotel for $11,946.44, which a separate source confirmed was for room expenses, and $10,887.00, which a source confirmed was for the sponsorship.
A source said $5,000 of the sponsorship money was given to Forester via an LLC under the name of his romantic partner, Laura Harwell. The other half of the money was used to cover “security, audio visual and additional pay roll for hotel staff.”
When asked if he received payment through Harwell, Forester told us, “No comment.”
“The only thing I can do with him is exposure,” Koeppel said, “So that it doesn’t happen to the next person.”