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    United States Attorney's Office
    Central District of California

    Thom Mrozek
    Public Affairs Officer

    (213) 894-6947
    thom.mrozek@usdoj.gov



    Return to the 2010 Press Release Index
    Release No. 10-064

    April 12, 2010

    CALIFORNIA MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO DEFRAUDING DONORS TO VETERANS’ CAUSES BY POSING AS ACTIVE MILITARY OFFICER

    LOS ANGELES – A California man pleaded guilty today to federal fraud charges related to a scheme in which he posed as a military officer and solicited funds that he falsely said would be used to help wounded veterans.

    James Kent Barbee, 60, who at the time of the offenses lived in Carpinteria, and now lives in Pacific Grover, pleaded guilty to a felony count of mail fraud and a misdemeanor count of unlawfully wearing a military uniform.

    Appearing before United States District Judge Dolly M. Gee, Barbee admitted that he set up the Liberty Spirit Farm Foundation in Missouri and later moved it to the Santa Ynez Valley. Barbee used the foundation to solicit donations from individuals who were told that their money would be used to help veterans who suffered from combat-related maladies such as post-traumatic stress syndrome. Instead of using donations to help veterans, Barbee used significant amounts of the money for personal expenses.

    In addition to claiming that Liberty Spirit was affiliated with Vandenberg Air Force Base, Barbee claimed to be an active-duty commander in the United States Navy. While Barbee did serve in the military in 1969, he falsely told donors that he had been on active duty for the past 40 years. Barbee also maintained a page on MySpace.com, in which he falsely claimed to be a Navy Commander and a military physician. Barbee maintained a website that urged potential contributors to make donations for veterans with entreaties such as: “How much is a wounded soldier worth in dollars and cents?” 

    During the course of the scheme, Barbee collected donations from people in Missouri and the counties of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Ventura. From October 2006 through December 2007, Barbee collected a total of $94,130 from these donors.

    Richard Gwin, Special Agent in Charge of the Western Field Office of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, said: “The harm from Barbee’s conduct is that it weakens the public’s confidence in legitimate charitable organizations and is a disgrace to the honor of all who have served in the armed forces of this great nation.”

    Barbee is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Gee on October 18, at which time he faces a statutory maximum sentence of 20½ years in federal prison.

    The case against Barbee is the result of an investigation by the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the Santa Barbara County District Attorney's Office.

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    Release No. 10-064

    Return to the 2010 Press Release Index