The Petty Archives

Man accused of impersonating Petty drummer
By Melissa Pinion-Whitt
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin - May 1, 2003

CLAREMONT - A man was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of using the name and music-industry clout of former Tom Petty drummer Stan Lynch to bilk $450,000 from investors and artists.

Ralph Melendrez, 62, who was on parole for grand theft and writing bad checks, was arrested by Claremont police at the Claremont Lodge, police said.

Melendrez, who has been a fugitive since 1998, was taken back to the California Institution for Men in Chino where he was held on suspicion of violating parole.

"He has a history of fraud going back about 10 years, and it looks like the first time he was arrested he gave the name of Peter Asher, who was a producer for Linda Ronstadt," said Claremont police Detective Rick Luginbill.

Claremont police tracked down Melendrez after getting a call from a Hollywood attorney who represents an alternative rock band called Beat & Path. The band was approached by Melendrez and had a meeting with him where they were asked for $50,000 to record a full-length album. Melendrez agreed to match the money they invested, making it a $100,000 contract, police said. The attorney, Clint Feddersen, and the band became suspicious and conducted a background check on Melendrez.

"Mr. Lynch was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year, and he's the tallest member of the Heartbreakers," Feddersen said. "This guy is short, old and bald."

When they called Lynch's publishing company, Sony/ATV Tree Nashville, the company called Lynch, who said he had never met Feddersen or the band he was representing.

Police discovered there were three other people who dealt with Melendrez and were defrauded by the man, Luginbill said.

The first was a man who met Melendrez at the MGM Grand hotel in Las Vegas in 2000. A second man from Colorado met Melendrez through the Arizona victim. The two men worked with Melendrez to form Mr. Music Productions, a company that was to search for new artists. The Arizona victim invested between $60,000 and $80,000 in the music company, and the Colorado victim invested about $335,000, police said. They believed Melendrez was Stan Lynch and never received a return on their investments, police said.

At least one artist, Eva Lucia of Spain, had been signed by the company, but it was unknown if she had lost money to Melendrez.

"The victims don't want their names published because they're embarrassed about the whole thing," Luginbill said.

A third victim from Pomona, who is also not an artist, gave money to Melendrez in another deal, Luginbill said. More information was not available on the Pomona man's case because he had not filed a report with Pomona police.

Feddersen provided the address of the Claremont motel where Melendrez had been living the past three years. There, police found numerous contracts bearing the name Stan Lynch, master tapes from recordings, CDs, $10,000 in jewelry and $1,800 in cash.

Lynch, reached while vacationing in Florida, said he has never met Melendrez to his knowledge. Lynch said he wanted the victims to know that the real Stan Lynch had nothing to do with defrauding them.

"I feel some sympathy for the people who were taken by him, but at the same time, I'm really (angry)," Lynch said. "Right or wrong, good or bad, it took me 35 years to get my reputation, and I feel wronged by him."

Lynch said he couldn't understand why Melendrez would use his identity, considering he's been out of the spotlight for some time. But he said he admired the "detective work" of Fedderson and Beat & Path.

"The cautionary tale is do your homework," Lynch said. "Most people have agents and managers and attorneys. I don't imagine you'd do these deals on the hood of a car. I wouldn't."

Lynch, who joined Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in 1974, played with the band 20 years before departing to pursue a career as a producer and songwriter. He worked as a session drummer on albums by Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne, the Eurythmics and the Byrds, among other artists. He has produced for artists such as Don Henley and collaborated with other bands such as the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Toto and Eddie Money.