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Group of Four Charged with Running Fake 'Wounded Warrior' Charities

Four suspects in Indiana were indicted for running a veteran charity scam. The group collected donations from more than 1,000 people and businesses who thought they were donating to the Wounded Warrior Project. Suspects allegedly spent the money on themselves on such things as liquor and gambling.

The group allegedly stole approximately $125,000 from people in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. Generous donors thought they were giving to a legitimate charity called the Wounded Warrior Project. The WWP is a nationally recognized charity that provides help to veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

They provide help with mental and physical health services, career counseling, mentoring and support to 'fill gaps in government care'.

The group was led by led by 44-year-old James Linville of Clarksville, 42-year-old Thomas Johnson of Henryville, 40-year-old Amy Bennett of Henryville and 38-year-old Joanie Watson of Clarksville. Linville and company asked for donations to the Wounded Warrior Fund and the Wounded Warrior Foundation, neither of which appears to be an actual charity.

They claimed to be from an “IRS Approved 501(c)(3) charity,” though there are no IRS records of these specific organizations being granted that status. Linville and Johnson reportedly used fictitious names in some cases, identifying themselves as veterans Sgt. Bob Davis and Paul Bradley.

The suspects told people the donations were going to support military families in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. Suspects even gave receipts to people who donated goods, services and money to the fake charities, which told them to retain the receipts 'for tax deduction purposes'.

The suspects would send out flyers and contact perspective donors, soliciting goods for various drives, such as a school supply drive, an overseas calling card drive, food and hotel services. They assured donors that the goods and services would be going to needy families of wounded veterans.

Debit cards from bank accounts linked to the Wounded Warrior Foundation and the Wounded Warrior Fund show money was spent by the suspects on purchases at casinos, liquor stores, smoke shops, Redbox purchases and medical payments. Many of the goods donated to the fake charities had been sold at pawn shops or donated to other charities, with the exception of things that the suspects kept for themselves.

The Clark County Sheriff’s Department in Indiana and the U.S. Secret Service had been investigating the activity with the two fake charities for three years, according to the Indiana Courier-Journal. U.S. Attorney Josh J. Minkler announced on Friday that the individuals involved were being charged.

"Our American veterans have dutifully served this country through many wars and deserve better than to be deprived of donations from giving donors," read a press release from Minkler. "The acts of these fraudsters have eroded the trust and goodwill of those who want to contribute to legitimate fundraising organizations, including those that support our veterans."

The actual Wounded Warrior Project charity praised the law enforcement agencies for their work. "We are grateful law enforcement will hold those involved accountable for their actions and the harm they have caused our nation's bravest and their families," said the WWP in a statement.

"WWP is committed to ensuring donor intentions are honored and we take this responsibility seriously."

If convicted, the suspects could each face up to 20 years in prison.

Source: NY Post
Photos: News Tribune, The Olympian

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