PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — The former owner of the Thunder Beach motorcycle rally is behind bars Friday.
Chase Michael is facing 22 counts of fraud.
Investigators said he passed more than half a million dollars in bad checks.
In January 2022, Chase Michael took over Thunder Beach, promising to add big-name music performers to the already successful event.
Michael apparently received loans from a number of Bay County residents to pay for the entertainment.
Kevin Swearingen was one of them.
“I issued a payment for $60,000 on November 30, then I issued him another I issued another payment for $75,000 paid to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s management company,” Swearingen said.
Swearingen said he initially received several payments from Michael.
Then, he said he received a $50,000 check from Michael that turned out to be worthless.
“But the payments dried up,” Swearingen said, “and the culmination of it was him writing me a bad check for $50,000, which is what led me to the Bay County Sheriff’s Office to see if we can get somebody something looked into it.”
Swearingen said Michael wrote that last check at the end of May.
“Alarm bells went off for me that this whole thing could potentially be some sort of racket,” Swearingen said, “at the very least, he’s writing pretty large bad checks. At the very worst you could be running, you know, some sort of scam that is affecting many locals. And so I figured it was time to go get the cops involved.”
In June, Swearingen went to the Bay County Sheriff’s Office.
“It lead to us getting ahold of some financial records through looking into the financial records,” said Criminal Investigations Sergeant Stephen Rhinehart, “we come across all these checks that were issued out that didn’t have the funds to cover them.”
Some of the fraudulent checks even went to local law enforcement.
Investigators said Michael turned himself into the Bay County Jail Thursday night.
On Friday, a judge set his bond at $44,000.
Deputies are still investigating and are asking any other possible victims to come forward.