What Lou Pearlman's Life In Prison Was Really Like

If the Monkees had Don Kirshner back in the 1960s and the Bay City Rollers had Tam Paton in the 1970s, late-'90s boy bands NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys had Lou Pearlman. The portly businessman and talent manager was almost like a father figure to the boys and young men who made up these groups, and when they made it to the upper echelon of the pop charts, it seemed like a sign that Pearlman's efforts on the business side of things were paying off. But as documented by Vanity Fair and the YouTube Originals documentary "The Boy Band Con," there was only one person really getting rich from those hit singles, and his name wasn't Nick Carter or Justin Timberlake.

Maybe we should say "getting richer," because Pearlman had already made quite the fortune from a number of apparently shady business ventures before he became a boy band impresario. And it was those ventures that landed him in the slammer; according to Reuters, Pearlman was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2008 for his role in a long-running scheme that cheated investors and financial institutions out of more than $300 million.

Pearlman was still serving his sentence in 2016 when he died at the age of 62 (via Billboard), leaving behind a complicated legacy where he was lauded for fueling the boy band boom of the late '90s, yet criticized for his practices behind the scenes, as well as the illegal non-musical endeavors that sent him to prison in the first place. But how were things for Pearlman during the last seven years of his life, most of which were spent behind bars?

Pearlman boasted that he was smarter than Bernie Madoff

In an exclusive phone interview with The Hollywood Reporter in 2014, Lou Pearlman almost seemed to be bragging about the crimes that landed him in prison. He did show some remorse for his actions, but on the other hand, he also compared his activities to those of Bernie Madoff, the infamous financier who defrauded his clients out of a whopping $65 billion in what is still the largest Ponzi scheme in history. According to Pearlman, Madoff "didn't have anything that really made money."

After bragging that he "had the music" and used it to help support his own Ponzi scheme, Pearlman went on to tell THR that Madoff was just a "scamster" at the end of the day. "I don't think it was right, what he did," he continued. "But I had my way to make it all right. I just didn't have my chance to do it." The disgraced impresario added that if he only had the chance to do so while still locked up, he would "pay everybody back" by organizing another boy band and hopefully taking them to the same heights reached by the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC about 15 years prior. That might have been a tall order for Pearlman. Not only did his 1,700 or so victims lose close to an estimated half a billion dollars combined; the music scene had drastically changed since the peak of the boy band era, One Direction notwithstanding.

His fellow inmates mostly liked him and didn't ask about the molestation claims

The aforementioned Vanity Fair article and YouTube documentary "The Boy Band Con" didn't just detail the accusations that Lou Pearlman deceived his young proteges by taking most of the money they made through their chart hits, concerts, and other revenue streams. They also shed some light on Pearlman's alleged sexual misconduct toward his charges, which included incidents where he supposedly touched them inappropriately or made sexually suggestive comments toward them. The former music manager denied these accusations in his interview with The Hollywood Reporter and claimed that none of his fellow inmates at the Federal Correctional Institution Texarkana in Texas asked him about them, because "they realize that none of that can be true."

"You know, the accusations that came out in that article, none of it was substantiated," Pearlman told THR. "Nobody who I've made a success has ever accused me of anything negative like that. The Vanity Fair piece interviewed only people that had a grudge."

At the Federal Correctional Institution Texarkana, Pearlman seemed to be fairly popular among the prison's population, which was mostly composed of "white collar criminals" and "corrupt public officials," per THR. He told the outlet that he mostly hit it off with the more "intelligent" inmates, though he generally avoided those whom he characterized as "drug dealers and crazies."

Pearlman suffered a stroke in 2010 and died in 2016 following surgery

During his time as a free man, Lou Pearlman didn't drink or do drugs, but he certainly loved his junk food. Eventually, he reached a peak weight of around 325 pounds. He told The Hollywood Reporter that he suffered a stroke in 2010, and it was a good thing that he was taken to a hospital with enough time to save his life. "If I would have kept on going with my lovely steaks and onion rings and fries, I'd probably be dead right now from a heart attack," he admitted, adding that he had slimmed down to 250 pounds following his health scare, mostly through a regimen of walking.

Despite his efforts to get healthy, Pearlman dealt with heart problems toward the end of his life. According to Billboard, he had a condition that prevented his heart valve from completely opening, and that required him to undergo surgery and have the valve replaced. He died on August 19, 2016, at a federal prison in Miami, where he had been recently transferred after serving most of his sentence in Texas.  An autopsy later revealed that the music mogul died of an infection of the inner lining of the heart that he developed following his surgery.