The chief organizer of the Niagara Falls Music and Art Festival has been charged with three felonies related to the misuse of funds for the annual event.
Rick Crogan, president of the festival, pleaded not guilty to two counts of grand larceny, class D felonies, and one count of scheming to defraud, a class E felony, in front of City Court Judge Robert Merino Friday morning.
Niagara Falls Police Capt. William Thompson said the criminal complaints were brought against Crogan as part of a joint investigation from the Niagara Falls Police Department and the Niagara County Sherriff's Office.
Investigators allege that Crogan had spent $15,000 of a sponsorship payment for the Niagara Falls Music and Art Festival on personal expenses after reviewing bank account information linked to the art festival and Crogan's personal accounts gained through subpoenas, Thompson said.
"Crogan took the money for sponsorship of the Niagara Falls Music and Art Festival, but failed to use the money for his festival and used the money for his own expenses," Thompson said.
The charges stem from an incident involving money donated by Renewal by Andersen Replacement Co., but other companies may have been victimized as well. Thompson is encouraging any donors that fear their funding has been misused to contact the police.
"This investigation has been ongoing," Thompson said. "There was a whistleblower who called several months back and said, 'This isn't right, what he's doing.' "
During Friday morning's court proceedings, Michael Deal, an attorney representing Crogan, asked that the pre-trial hearing be adjourned to a later date to sort out some issues before pleading on behalf of his client.
"We've discovered potential conflict issues that we need to sort out," Deal told Merino, who sat at the bench in place of City Court Judge Diane Vitello following several conferences with Deal and Niagara County Assistant District Attorney John Granchelli.