It really is the lowest of the low – swindling honest people out of cash in the name of helping injured military veterans. But that is exactly what has been happening in Indiana over the past number of years. A group of fraudsters have been targeting military families and asking them to donate to “Wounded Warrior Fund,” playing on the name of the legitimate “Wounded Warrior Project” to elicit thousands of dollars in donations for personal gain.
The so-called “Wounded Warrior Fund” has been subject to a three-year investigation by a joint task force of the US Secret Service and Clark County Sheriff’s Office. Federal prosecutors say four people were indicted February 28 by a federal grand jury on serious fraud charges; 227 counts of wire fraud, mail fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud.
“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,” US Attorney Josh Minkler stated on Friday, as reported by CNN. “Our American veterans have dutifully served this country through many wars and deserve better than to be deprived of donations from giving donors.”
The criminals issued flyers that stated, “the funds received will go to assist families of active military personnel and our military veterans and their families who are having financial hardships.” In fact, every penny donated was going straight into the pockets of the fraudsters, funding their drug and gambling habits.
Three of the suspects have been named as James Linville, Thomas Johnson of Clark County and Joanie Watson. The fourth suspect has been named as Linville’s ex-girlfriend Amy Lou Bennett
“No veterans’ families have benefited in any way in this case, that we could find,” said Special Agent in Charge of the Secret Service Louisville Field Office, Richard Ferretti. “They’ve used it at casinos, they’ve used it for medical bills, they’ve written checks to each other in cash, so we can’t find a single dollar, so far, that’s gone to a veteran in this case.”
Clark County Sheriff Jamey Noel further explained the group’s crimes. “This organization — this fake organization — was asking people for food donations, for hotel rooms for veterans, for donations from different businesses that would be raffled or organized off for this, what people thought was a legitimate organization,” he stated.
The Wounded Warrior Project stated that the scandal has caused many of its regular supporters to second-guess their donations.
“Fraudulent groups like the Wounded Warrior Fund and Foundation damage the public’s trust in the good work of legitimate charities committed to fulfilling their missions,” Wounded Warrior Project spokeswoman Ayla Tezel told CNN.
“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. WWP is committed to ensuring donor intentions are honored, and we take this responsibility seriously.”
Veterans are outraged by the scandal. We are talking about men and women who put their lives on the line to protect the United States and the freedoms we all enjoy.
“They shed blood for our country,” said veteran James Hael. “And this guy is using the Wounded Warrior name to obtain money for himself, and as a scam, with nothing being returned to any veterans, or wounded veterans, or people that really need the money. … It makes me sick.”