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Alabama tourism agency keeping CEO after fraud indictment

January 5, 2022 GMT

DOTHAN, Ala. (AP) — A regional tourism agency in Alabama said it will retain its chief executive officer after he was indicted on a federal fraud charge related to a music festival in Iowa that lost more than $2 million.

Visit Dothan, which works to attract visitors to the southeast Alabama city of 71,000, issued a statement Wednesday saying it’s aware that CEO and president Aaron McCreight had been charged with another man in a financial scheme but is standing by him, WTVY-TV reported.

McCreight has signed an agreement saying he plans to plead guilty, court documents show, and prosecutors announced that he could face up to 30 years in prison. But the tourism organization said McCreight has done a good job since arriving in Alabama in 2019.

“The board of directors of Visit Dothan is very confident in the financial management practices that it currently has in place and in the confidence that it has placed in Aaron based on the job that he has done,” said the statement.

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McCreight, 46, and Doug Hargrave, 54, of Puyallup, Washington, were each accused of one count of bank fraud in charges filed Tuesday. McCreight was president and CEO of Go Cedar Rapids and Hargrave was the tourism agency’s finance director in 2018, when the alleged fraud happened.

The men are accused of defrauding a Cedar Rapids bank by misrepresenting revenue projections to get loans for Newbo Evolve, a three-day music festival staged by Go Cedar Rapids in August 2018 that included performances by the band Maroon 5 and singer Kelly Clarkson. McCreight signed a $2.2 million promissory note from the bank, court documents allege.

The festival eventually lost more than $2 million and the Iowa organization couldn’t repay money when it was due, the charges allege. McCreight was fired from the Iowa job and was hired months later by Visit Dothan.

Court documents show Hargrave also plans to plead guilty.