A Cosplay Convention intended to raise money for numerous charities took an uncharitable turn when the director of the event allegedly disappeared with the funds. The missing money was meant to be used towards charity organizations, cosplay contest prizes, guest and vendor reimbursements, as well as countless convention-related expenses. The Cosplay Convention and Anime Experience were held in Little Rock, Arkansas, from November 17-19.
Charitable causes used to promote the event included the Heroes and Angels Corporation—a local organization that raises fund to provide non-medical assistance to children with cancer and their families—and hurricane relief for cosplayers from Houston and Orlando. Both causes were prominently advertised on the official event website.
Another main draw of Cosplay Con featured Ciara Renee, best known for her role as Hawk Girl (Kendra Saunders) on the CW Arrowverse. Renee was one of the many guests who was nearly scammed by the convention promoter and graciously stayed to interact with fans even after discovering that they would possibly not be paid.
I had such a great time @ #CosplayCon #CWArkansas Saw some really mind-blowing cosplays. Some real favorites, too 😉🐥 Grateful I get to see the impact of #SuperHeroines in the lives of young girls. I hope that the complexity and strength of these women will be highlighted and rightfully praised so young women everywhere know that #WomenArePowerful #WomenAreComplex #WomenAreInteresting #TheFutureIsFemale #BothSidesNow #Hawkgirl #DCComics #Representation #HawkNugget #Grateful #Shethority
The promoter of the convention used the fake name “Malcolm Fledge” when conducting business in the weeks leading up to the event. One staffer reported that Fledge was significantly absent throughout the convention. Fledge, whose real name was eventually found out to be Keaton Paul, did not participate in any press interviews when promoting the event. It was further reported by unknowing staff that Fledge did not use his name on any documentation regarding the event and allowed other financiers and staffers to provide signatures.
Christine Higgins, who was brought on as a volunteer coordinator, stepped up to “take over the convention when he didn’t show up”. On the morning of the main show, multiple staff members, as well as the Verizon Arena employees, attempted to contact Fledge through phone calls, text messages, and even visits to his home. Law enforcement officials were summoned to perform a Welfare Check, but Fledge showed up before the police were dispatched and told Higgins that “he was so exhausted that he didn’t know where he was when he woke up”. Higgins reported that Fledge disappeared again from the Verizon Arena shortly afterward.
An extensive list of problems due to Fledge’s mismanagement includes:
- No prize money available for Cosplay Costume Contest Winner
- Vendors were uninformed that “Vendor Bucks” (issued by Fledge) would be used by patrons with a promise of reimbursement
- No transportation service provided for guests
- Out-of-pocket payments by staffers for payments, reimbursements, and prizes
- Multiple canceled events/contests
- Unpaid entertainment acts
- Volunteers working beyond initial 3-hour shifts
- Credit card on file intended to pay for guest hotel rooms was declined
Firsthand accounts of the event are sourced at The Cosplay Con Facebook page in the review section HERE.
According to Higgins, no guests were kicked out of hotel rooms, but many paid for their own and others’ rooms. The expenses left many guests, who were promised payment and/or travel reimbursement by Fledge, financially compromised as well as emotionally traumatized.
One of the most devasting consequences of Fledge’s deception, according to Higgins, was the money lost that was intended to provide Christmas celebrations for children with cancer currently undergoing treatment. The money was raised through a separately ticketed event within the convention called “The Children’s Comic House”. Higgins personally vouches for raising about $2000 for the Heroes and Angels Corporation. The money raised disappeared alongside Fledge.
Higgins urges future con-attendees, guests, and exhibitors to research conventions before committing, especially first-time conventions such as this one. She also stated, “I truly hope that the cosplay community of the world does not judge Arkansas based on this one convention.”
Despite numerous organizational and scheduling problems at the convention, attendance was estimated to be among 3,000-4,000 attendees.
If you would like to contribute to the Heroes and Angel Christmas Stocking Program, please donate to their GoFundMe page HERE.