Tennessee Resident Admits Defrauding Contributors to Sandy Hook-Related Charity
Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut and Patricia M. Ferrick, Special Agent in Charge of the New Haven Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, announced that ROBERT TERRY BRUCE, 35, of Nashville, Tenn., pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge Alvin W. Thompson in Hartford to one count of wire fraud stemming from a scheme to defraud contributors to an organization he established after the December 14, 2012 school shootings in Newtown.
According to court documents and statements made in court, BRUCE founded the 26.4.26 Foundation, an organization that began soliciting charitable donations in the aftermath of the December 14, 2012 school shootings in Sandy Hook, Connecticut for a variety of purposes, including “to help raise funds for increased school safety, families of victims, memorials to teacher heroes, awareness and prevention in schools across America.”
In early 2013, BRUCE solicited and received contributions to 26.4.26 in connection with a charity athletic event in Gilford, N.H., called the Schools 4 Schools run. BRUCE promoted the event via social media, and solicited contributions to 26.4.26 through an online PayPal account by representing to potential donors that the purpose of the event was “to help raise funds for increased school safety, families of victims, memorials to teacher heroes, awareness and prevention in schools across America.” BRUCE further represented to potential donors that “all proceeds will go to the 26.4.26 Foundation.”
Also in early 2013, BRUCE solicited contributions to 26.4.26 in connection with a charity athletic event in Tennessee called CrossFit Cares. As he had in the New Hampshire event, BRUCE promoted the event via social media, and solicited contributions to 26.4.26 through PayPal by representing to potential donors that “all proceeds will go to the 26.4.26 Foundation” and that the “mission of 26.4.26 is to provide funding for the families of victims, memorials for teacher heroes and to increase safety in schools across the country.”
Rather than using the funds raised to support his purported mission, BRUCE used most of the funds to enrich himself and to support his personal training business. Several of the victim donors are from Connecticut.
Judge Thompson scheduled sentencing for August 30, 2016, at which time BRUCE faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years.
BRUCE has been released on a $20,000 bond since his arrest on February 13, 2015.
This matter is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Wines. U.S. Attorney Daly also acknowledged the critical assistance provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee.