Four people were indicted on Feb. 28 by a grand jury following a three-year investigation by the US Secret Service and Clark County Sheriff’s Office into a “Wounder Warrior” scam, CNN reported on Friday.
More than 1,000 victims were defrauded for a total of more than $150,000 in donations by four people over the course of six years, according to investigators. The indictment says the four people told donors that 100 percent of their donations would go to veterans and their families.
Those charged include James Linville, Thomas Johnson, Joanie Watson and Amy Lou Bennett, who had all been arrested.
The four people asked for donations to help Indiana veterans under the guise of the “Wounded Warrior Fund,” which was found to be a scam.
It was likely confused with the the Wounded Warrior Project, which is a recognized nonprofit organization that helps veterans.
Wounded Warrior Project said groups like the Wounded Warrior Fund have a negative impact on donations to real charities because it makes those donating second-guess if they should donate to a cause.
“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.
“The acts of these fraudsters have eroded the trust and good will of those who want to contribute to legitimate fundraising organizations, including those that support our veterans,” U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler said in a Justice Department statement Friday. “Our American veterans have dutifully served this country through many wars and deserve better than to be deprived of donations from giving donors.”
The four people charged allegedly used aliases to make cold calls and also used flyers seeking donations from businesses claiming they would provide the funds to military veterans and their families, the USO, Camp Atterbury, the VFW and the Kentucky and Indiana National Guard, CNN reported.
The flyers stated that the organization was an “IRS Approved 501(c)(3) charity,” despite never having applied for that status.
“No veterans’ families have benefited in any way in this case, that we could find,” Richard Ferretti, Special Agent in Charge of the Secret Service Louisville Field Office, told CNN. “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.”
James Linville left up to 30 voicemails on Clark County Sheriff’s Detective Donnie Bowyer’s answering machine after having been interviewed twice by investigators. Some of those messages were threats towards the Sheriff’s Department, CNN reported.
“Your f*ckingg state laws don’t apply to me in any way,” Linville said in one of the recorded voicemails. “I will make a mockery of your f*cking court. And I’ll destroy the Sheriff’s Department.”
Three pleaded not guilty while the fourth appears in court Friday afternoon. They are charged with 227 counts of wire fraud, mail fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud, and each face 20 years in prison, CNN reported.