Orlando Music Festival ticket holders seek attorney general’s help after event cancellation

Jailed producer admits to financial problems in court filing

ORLANDO, Fla. – Eight months after the producer of the Orlando Music Festival was arrested on fraud charges and the event was cancelled, ticket holders are still waiting to get their money back.

“Oh, my gosh. We are big smooth jazz fans,” said Anita Sallas.

The Oviedo resident showed News 6 her family’s collection of jazz music as she recalled buying tickets to the festival, scheduled for Fourth of July weekend, as a Christmas gift.

“The first part of June, we got an email, and it said that the event was being canceled, and that we would be getting a refund,” she said. “Then shortly thereafter, every few days, we were getting another email saying the same thing. It kept repeating. We got maybe about four or five of those, and then all of a sudden it stopped. Then, we never heard from them again.”

“These guys and gals -- they can put on a show,” said David Thompson. “It is just pure entertainment.”

Thompson, of Vero Beach, said he spent about $1,000 on his tickets to the Orlando Music Festival, and he received the same email indicating the event had been cancelled.

News 6 first uncovered the festival’s cancellation after its creator – James Walker Watson – was arrested by the FBI and charged with fraud in connection with the Southfork Music Festival just outside Dallas.

He has pleaded not guilty.

[INSIDER EXTRA: Hear James Walker Watson’s interview with News 6 before he was arrested]

News 6′s investigation revealed Watson had served prison time for similar crimes connected to other music festivals in Houston and Sacramento.

“I have a track record of being a successful producer,” Watson told News 6 in an interview before he was arrested. “I have had two stumbling blocks out of 36 music festivals. I have learned my lesson, so I’m finished with it.”

An email message alerted ticket buyers that the Orlando Music Festival was cancelled after its executive producer was arrested on federal fraud charges. (Copyright 2022 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

Sallas and Thompson said they are still waiting for their money back, and they have joined other ticket holders in filing complaints with the Florida Office of the Attorney General.

Thompson received a notice indicating his complaint has been forwarded to the Consumer Protection Division, which enforces violations of the Unfair Trade Practices Act.

“At least I didn’t get the thank you for your response, and we appreciate it,” he said. “They said we heard your concerns, and here are some other places for you to look at, too, so I’m hopeful something will happen here.”

Since News 6′s investigation last year, the Orlando Music Festival’s website has been taken down, and emails and phone calls to other festival leaders asking about refunds have gone unanswered.

Now, Watson has admitted to having financial problems.

From his jail cell in Texas, Watson has filed a lawsuit in Orange County against one of the production companies he hired to help with the festival.

According to the lawsuit, he is seeking $80,000 in what he called “unreturned deposit money.”

Watson, representing himself in the lawsuit, wrote that not having the deposit back “has impacted upon (Watson’s) ability to attend to the matters of settling obligations due to the cancellation of Orlando Music Festival.”

He did not indicate whether he obtained an insurance policy for the festival.

“They owe us the money,” Thompson said. “Give it back.”

“Make this right, refund our money, and refund the money to all of the other people that thought they were going to be attending a concert,” Sallas said.

Ticket holders from across the country have emailed News 6 asking for assistance in securing refunds.

The Office of the Attorney General and the FBI are asking ticket holders to file detailed complaints to their offices.

The attorney general’s office can be contacted here, while the FBI can be contacted here.

Watson is still in jail despite two attempts to bond out.

His next court hearing is set for August.

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About the Author:

Erik Sandoval joined the News 6 team as a reporter in May 2013 and became an Investigator in 2020. During his time at News 6, Erik has covered several major stories, including the 2016 Presidential campaign. He was also one of the first reporters live on the air at the Pulse Nightclub shooting.