Three country music festivals in Oregon and Idaho shut down in 2019—and it wasn’t because of the pandemic.
Vendors at the Country Crossing Music Festival, last held at the Jackson County Fairgrounds in southeast Oregon, say they were stiffed. Lax security and excessive drinking at the Willamette Country Music Festival in Brownsville led Linn County officials to revoke its permit.
Sponsors and artists fled, and in late 2018, the festivals’ promoter was fired. Both Oregon festivals announced they were ending their runs. Mountain Home Country Music Festival in southern Idaho went on “hiatus.”
Now, federal prosecutors are filling in the details of why. That promoter, Anne Hankins, 53, was a “serial fraudster,” according to Craig Gabriel, criminal chief for the U.S. Attorney’s Office. She faces up to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to wire fraud and money laundering on Wednesday.
According to court documents filed in U.S. District Court, Hankins forged bank documents to convince the majority owner of her promotional company, the talent agency formerly known as WME, to buy her out for $1.5 million.
She told WME in a monthly, emailed financial update that the company had $1.1 million in the bank. In reality, there was $16,000. That was wire fraud.
The money laundering occurred after, when Hankins paid $251,445 in restitution to the U.S. Circuit Court.
That was for a 2002 conviction for bank fraud, in which Hankins made a “false loan application.” She was jailed for 30 days and ordered to return the $350,000 to U.S. Bank.
But for years, she struggled to make restitution payments, and even after a decade, she’d paid back only $13,044. She cut a deal with the bank, but prosecutors demanded she still pay the full amount into a federal fund for crime victims.
By 2018, her festivals were making headlines, but not because of the headliners. (Those included Kid Rock and Brad Paisley.) Instead, vendors complained they hadn’t been paid. Bi-Mart eventually pulled its sponsorship, and the three festivals never returned.
Hankins will be sentenced in January.