Alabama tourism group backs CEO after Cedar Rapids fraud plea

Aaron McCreight ran the ‘newbo evolution’ festival, which lost millions

Aaron McCreight, President and CEO of GO Cedar Rapids, speaks January 29, 2018 during a news conference announcing a festival of music, arts and inspiration called ‘newbo evolution’, which will is held the following August. On Thursday, he pleaded guilty to bank fraud in connection with the festival which caused him to lose money. His current employer, a taxpayer-funded tourism agency in Alabama, supports him. (The Gazette)

DOTHAN, Ala. (AP) — A taxpayer-funded tourism agency in Alabama is backing its chief executive after he pleaded guilty to criminal fraud in Iowa, where a Cedar Rapids music festival he oversaw lost millions.

Visit Dothan, which promotes tourism in the southeastern Alabama town of 71,000, issued a statement Thursday after Aaron McCreight appeared in court, saying he stands by a ruling earlier to retain him as President and General Manager of WDHN-TV. reported.

McCreight could face up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine, prosecutors said.

The city provides Visit Dothan with 4% of the lodging tax it receives from the state, and two city commissioners sit on the organization’s board of directors. Mayor Alfred Saliba said Visit Dothan is important to the community and the city will not end funding,

“They’ve done a tremendous job over the last year and a half. We are extremely pleased with what our investment has been with them,” he said.

The Alabama organization hired McCreight months after he was fired from GO Cedar Rapids, where he and another man were accused of defrauding a bank by misrepresenting revenue projections to obtain loans for newbo evolution, a three-day music festival held in August 2018 which included performances by Maroon 5 and Kelly Clarkson.

The festival ultimately lost more than $2 million and the Iowa organization was unable to repay the money when due, the charges allege. McCreight, 47, and a former colleague, Douglas S. Hargrave, 55, of Puyallup, Wash., each pleaded guilty to bank fraud.

Before McCreight pleaded guilty, directors of Visit Dothan said the organization had confidence in his financial management practices and trusted him “based on the work he has done”.

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