The Visit Dothan president & CEO Aaron McCreight has a November sentencing date in federal court in Iowa after pleading guilty to one count of bank fraud in January.
According to the Department of Justice, McCreight pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud for his role in defrauding a bank while employed in a previous role as president & CEO of Go Cedar Rapids (GoCR) to fund an unsuccessful "music and cultural festival" called Newbo Evolve featuring Maroon 5 and Kelly Clarkson in the summer of 2018.
The Dothan tourism agency later hired McCreight as president & CEO in early 2019.
Doug Hargrave, finance director of GoCR, also pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud.
According to the Department of Justice, as the Newbo Evolve event dates approached, GoCR did not have enough money to pay Kelly Clarkson and buy the alcohol that was to be sold at the concert venue.
Hargrave and McCreight admitted that they defrauded the financial institution that had extended a loan to GoCR to finance Newbo Evolve by misrepresenting Newbo Evolve's actual ticket sales, projected revenue, projected expenses, and the correct amount of loss they were projecting and expecting Newbo Evolve to generate. According to the Department of Justice, they did this to fraudulently induce the bank to loan GoCR additional money to support Newbo Evolve.
According to the Department of Justice, McCreight and Hargrave sent a false and fraudulent Newbo Evolve 2018 Budget to the bank in support of GoCR's request for an increase in its loan in July 2018. In a meeting with representatives of the bank, McCreight fraudulently misrepresented the number of tickets that had been sold for Maroon 5 and Kelly Clarkson's performances. The bank subsequently increased the loan to GoCR from $1.5 million to $2.2 million.
The project ended up losing $2.3 million. GoCR's board fired McCreight shortly thereafter in Aug. 2018, according to the Des Moines Register.
"Not enough folks came," McCreight told WTVY in March 2019 after he was hired by the Visit Dothan Board of Directors for his new role. "We put on a great show, and people who did come had a great time, but, at the end of the day, there weren't enough sales to make [the festival] break even."
Bill Durden, chairman of Visit Dothan's Board of Directors, told WDHN in January that McCreight is still employed because the board still thinks he's the "right man for the job."
"Aaron is basically the Bryce Young of this industry," Durden told WDHN.
Visit Dothan is funded, in part, through a lodging tax that Dothan brings in from visitors, according to WDHN.
"I still stand by my statement that I made several years ago when we first brought him on," Durden told WDHN. "Iowa's loss is Dothan's gain."
WTVY first reported news of the November court date.
To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email caleb.taylor@1819News.com.
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