Alabama tourism group supports CEO after fraud plea in Iowa

January 28, 2022 GMT

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

Visit Dothan, which promotes tourism in the southeast Alabama city of 71,000, released a statement Thursday after Aaron McCreight appeared in court saying it stood by a previous decision to retain him as president and chief executive, WDHN-TV reported.

McCreight could face as long as 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. Mayor Alfred Saliba said Visit Dothan is important to the community and the city won’t end funding,


“They have 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 by GO Cedar Rapids, where he and another man were accused of defrauding a bank by misrepresenting revenue projections to get loans for Newbo Evolve, a three-day music festival staged in August 2018 that included performances by the band Maroon 5 and singer Kelly Clarkson.

The festival eventually lost more than $2 million and the Iowa organization couldn’t repay money when it was due, the charges allege. McCreight, 47, and a former colleague, Douglas S. Hargrave, 55, of Puyallup, Washington, both pleaded guilty to bank fraud.

Before McCreight pleaded guilty, directors of Visit Dothan said the organization was confident in its financial management practices and had confidence in him “based on the job that he has done.”