Seattle’s ‘Muddy Muggle’ race canceled; Harry Potter fans cry scam
SEATTLE — Lenae Oliver was in the midst of picking out her Gryffindor-themed costume. She and a friend had paid $183 to run in their first Harry Potter mud run.
But the organizer pulled a disappearing act, she says.
The alleged scam artist combined the popularity of Harry Potter and mud runs to promote “Muddy Muggle” events all over the country. Thousands signed up.
Now, the organizer is MIA. And no reimbursements for Potter fans are in sight.
Oliver is smiley and friendly; always looking for adventure. Like many in her 20s and 30s, she's a fan of mud runs, 5K runs that incorporate obstacles, mud and often costumes. So when she saw a mud run paired with a Harry Potter theme on her Facebook in October 2016, she jumped at the chance.
"I couldn't miss out," Oliver said. "I bought the tickets and everything eight months ahead of time."
The Muddy Muggle - which later changed its name to Muddy Mortal - was billed as more than a race, Oliver says. Descriptions of the event, posted by Jamie Guined and FitGeek Events, LLC, make it seem like an all-immersive Harry Potter experience.
Along with the run there were supposed to be wizzarding sports, a locally sourced feast, and retailers selling all sorts of Harry Potter themed goods.
"Not into obstacle course events," a flier for the event asks. "Join us as a spectator for our immersive fan festival where you'll have the opportunity to sip on a mug of Witch's Brew while listening to one of several Wizard Wrock bands..."
All looked normal on the Muddy Mortal Facebook page for months, and almost a dozen other events were planned around the country by Guined and FitGeek Events, LLC.
As the June race date approached, things got suspicioius, Oliver says.
No specific race location was given. Details seemed sketchy at best.
An email went out on May 15 from FitGeek Events LLC, claiming to be the first of many. Then another email on May 27, saying the event was going to be pushed back because a team member had "become unresponsive."
When a third email came out on May 30 saying the event was still not scheduled and refunds would be available for those who asked, Oliver took the opportunity.
"I was really looking forward to it," Oliver says. "But I decided to claim to get a refund put in. It seemed like there was too much uncertainty."
From Bad to Worse
Oliver filled out a refund form and sent it electronically to an email registered to by FitGeek Events, LLC. She was told via email her refund would be processed in 90 days.
But after that last email... nothing. She waited 90 days. No response.
"It was complete radio silence," Oliver said. "I never got a refund or any other contact."
That's when Oliver went to the Muddy Mortal site and saw the unexpected. Muddy Mortal was canceled, and Guined had filed for bankruptcy.
Oliver said she then researched Guined and FitGeek Events, LLC. She was dismayed at what she saw. News stories of other Muddy Mortal events canceled. Blog posts detailing lavish spending by Guined and her family, and donations to military charities not fulfilled. A Facebook group of other mortals, all left in a lurch without any sort of refund. Other, similar sketchy ventures in the past.
"It's a complete scam," Oliver said. "You can Google her name and the things that come up are complete crazy."
Q13 News reached out to Guined and FitGeek Events, LLC. No calls were immediately returned, and email request for comments bounced back.
The Washington State Attorney General's Office shows at least seven complaints have been filed against FitGeek Events, LLC. The Better Business Bureau gives the organization an F Grade, and reviews of the Muddy Mortal event are all failing. There is no record of FitGeek Events, LLC or Guined ever successfully booking a run location in Seattle, or any other city.
It doesn't appear a single Muddy Mortal event was carried out anywhere in the country, Q13 News has found.
"You're talking hundreds or thousands of people who were scammed," Oliver said.
Oliver says she is most frustrated with Muddy Mortal and Guined initially offering a refund.
"It's frustrating to me because if you ask people if they want a refund, you expect to get a refund," she said.
Oliver says there's talk in the group of a class-action lawsuit. She said she'll also talk to her bank about a fraud refund to see if she can get any money back.
As for the race? She's taking it as one big, expensive lesson.
"I will definitely do more research before I book another run," Oliver said.