Red flags before Margarita Madness 5K shut down in GR

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Margarita Madness 5K in Grand Rapids ended with a lot of angry people, no margaritas and criminal charges.

Organizers had permits for the Saturday afternoon race, but not to serve alcohol. The event at Riverside Park ended with two event organizers being arrested and the booze being poured out.

Event organizer Aaron Scott appeared in a Kent County courtroom Monday morning where he was formally charged with illegally selling or distributing liquor without a license. Online jail records show Jamilah Board, who is also listed as a race organizer, was arrested as well. Both organizers were free on bond Monday night.

Rumors spread this weekend that undercover Grand Rapids Police Department cops shut down the race, showing up in rented trucks. 

“There has been speculation that this was a raid, we came in on vehicles. That’s just not true,” said Sgt. Cathy Williams with GRPD.

Police set the record straight Monday after pictures of the arrests were shared by participants. Officers said there was no undercover operation.

“Office staff from special events did do a compliance check,” Williams clarified. “They observed alcohol for sale there on the property. They called us (GRPD).”

Margarita Madness 5K promised margaritas and a party after the run. Officers allowed runners to finish the race, but shut down the after-party just as it was starting Saturday.

“No IDs were being checked, all in violation. They did not have a permit to do so, so we arrested the organizers,” Williams explained.

This is not the first time the event organizers have made the news. A run they held in Fresno, California made headlines last month after it was postponed.

The race called “Happy Hour Run” didn’t have a liquor license and the organizers never applied for one, according to news reports from the area. Runners were never refunded, according to those reports. 

The websites for group’s various runs look legitimate, but a quick search on the Better Business Bureau website shows the events all have F ratings.

“They are not living up to the promises that they make in cities across the country,” said Troy Baker, spokesperson for the BBB Serving Western Michigan.

Each of the races say a portion of the money goes to a charity, but a search of online IRS records show that the “charity,” called the World Wide Push Foundation, is run by the same people who handle the races.

The IRS recently revoked the World Wide Push Foundation’s nonprofit status because they failed to file the proper paperwork for the past three years. It’s unclear where the money is going.

News 8 repeatedly tried to contact event organizers for comment, but we have not yet heard back from them.

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