Cosplay fans are incensed after they say the lead organizer of an event ripped them off for hundreds and fled with their money. Other organizers and volunteers say they were duped by the head organizer as well and spent over $1,000 of their own money in an attempt to make it right, but could not do much to mitigate the disaster of the weekend convention.
On Friday and Saturday, fans gathered at the Verizon Arena in Little Rock for The Cosplay Con & Anime Experience. Guests were not paid, said several volunteers and guests. One of these guests, a professional cosplayer, said she didn’t ask for any money, only a room and a volunteer to help with her panel. But the card used to pay for the hotel rooms was declined, said ne volunteer, Katyusha Lubiani. Lubiani said guests were kicked out of their hotel rooms and one of those guests, who had a history of severe depression, is currently in the hospital after a suicide attempt.
The main organizer at the center of these accusations is known as Malcolm Fledge. Several volunteers and guests say that this is not his real name, and some believe they have found the real identity of Malcolm Fledge. Pictured below is a mug shot that internet sleuths have dug up which they believe to be the same man they accuse of ripping off the convention.
It is unknown at this time if they are really the same person or just look alike.
Vendors got a raw deal from this convention as well. According to several vendors, guests were expected to exchange money for coupons to spend at the vendors’ tables. But when the vendors attempted to exchange these coupons for cash, they could not get a hold of Fledge. Fans who participated in contests also found that the prizes did not exist.
Whatever the fellow’s real name, fans should be aware that there are those who would attempt to scam them. Whether or not “Fledge” ever returns to Arkansas, cosplayers and organizers in other states might keep this picture memorized and be aware of the allegations. For fans in Arkansas, while it is certainly important to remain cautious, should be aware that there are many conventions that have already been established and proven legit, such as Animecon Arkansas, the Arkansas Anime Festival (A2F), River City Comicon, Spa City Comicon, and others. Fans can easily research which others have had successful conventions in the previous years.
But fans should not discount new conventions either. While many were taken in by the Cosplay Convention & Anime Experience, including many high profile guests, there are still ways fans can protect themselves. Fans might start by finding out the identity of the lead organizer or the person in charge of the money. If that person’s social media account was created recently, that might be a clue that the account is not real. If that person has personal information on the account, such as work location or school, fans can also use that to verify a person’s identity.
More information on the Cosplay Con & Anime Experience scandal can be found by searching #SueCon2017 on Facebook.