Magician who 'disappeared' with customers' cash says he 'ran out of money'
- Credit: Archant
A magician accused of disappearing with his customers' cash has moved to Manchester — claiming he "ran out of money" and was forced to close his business.
Entertainer Robbie James, whose real name is Evan Boothby, was earlier this year accused of failing to show up to booked events and then refusing to refund deposits to customers.
In response, he claimed everyone he "felt was due a refund" has been refunded, but a year on from the saga several customers say they are yet to receive a penny.
The magician, who was born in Stowmarket but went to high school in Cromer, had previously performed all over the region. As of last summer he was living in Ipswich.
Now, however, he runs a YouTube blog based in Manchester named "2Gays1Pug", after recently moving there with his boyfriend and their dog Beau.
But while Mr Boothby has appeared to move on with his life, his customers are unrelenting in their calls for reimbursement.
Kamlesh Samji and Vikki Walker both say they hope to eventually take him to the small claims court.
Mr Samji, 48 and a non-practising solicitor based in Leicester, paid Mr Boothby £200 last year for a Zoom party that the magician never logged onto.
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"The worst part was that Evan was recommended to me by his own cousin, who is part of my contact networking group," Mr Samji said. "He totally left him in the lurch when he never showed up that day."
Meanwhile 42-year-old Vikki Walker, from Sudbury, paid £100 when she booked the elusive magician to perform at several parties that had to be cancelled or rescheduled due to the pandemic.
Both customers were promised refunds which they said had never materialised.
And when they told the entertainer they would resort to posting on social media if he continued to ignore their messages, he retorted by saying he "did not need the abuse", and that he "did not take kindly to threats".
In 2020, Mr Boothby was named Entertainer of the Year, but some of his customers have given him less glowing reviews.
They claimed his excuses for not showing were bizarre — ranging from "personal issues" to him not being able to find his laptop charger.
Christine Eaglestone, 70 and living in Canvey Island, got half of the £100 she paid to Mr James for an August street party when he failed to show up.
But she never got the other £50.
"He's a cheeky little monkey, and never even had the decency to tell me why he didn't show up that day," she said.
"Then I had to actively track him down to find out what had happened.
"He's a good magician, because the way I see it he's done a disappearing act."
Dawn Cooper-Mayhew and Duane Mayhew, from Felsham, never saw the £100 they paid to Mr James for their daughter's birthday party last October, either.
"It's the principle really", Ms Cooper-Mayhew, 52, said. "He knew what he was doing, and he did it to so many people.
Mr Boothby, when contacted for comment, said he was no longer running the company and that the pandemic had hit his business hard.
On his Instagram profile, Mr Boothby still refers to himself as a magician.
"I tried to start [the business] up again after the relaxing of Covid restrictions but it just wasn't possible", he explained.
"At the start of lockdown I refunded as many people as I could when they were all cancelling shows, but I eventually just ran out of money.
"After talking to Citizens Advice, they told me to offer a new date for customers and not charge an admin fee. I did this but most declined.
"If anyone does get in touch who I haven't managed to refund please contact my magic mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), and I will make sure they are refunded."
But according to four customers we spoke to, they have already tried asking for a refund countless times through various channels: text, WhatsApp, Facebook messenger, but to no avail.
Some of the customers were also blocked on social media by Mr Boothby, reportedly for "abuse".
One of them was Ms Walker. She said: "We didn't abuse him at all. I was very understanding of his situation and we came up with a payment plan. But he never paid anything in the end, and I have a right to have my money back."
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