Four defendants face fraud charges in bogus fundraising efforts for wounded military veterans
Pocketed over $125,000 in funds for personal use
New Albany-United States Attorney Josh Minkler announced today federal charges against four individuals who are alleged to have stolen over $125,000 in an elaborate fraud scheme posing as fundraisers for America’s veterans and their families.
“Our American veterans have dutifully served this country through many wars and deserve better than to be deprived of donations from giving donors,” said Minkler. “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.”
Those charged include:
James D. Linville, 44, Clarksville, a/k/a Sergeant Bob Davis
Thomas A. Johnson, 42, Henryville, a/k/a Paul Bradley
Amy L. Bennett, 40, Henryville
Joanie Watson, 38, Clarksville
The conspiracy was led by Linville who filed paperwork with the Indiana Secretary of State’s Office to form the Wounded Warrior Fund, Inc. and the Wounded Warrior Foundation, Inc. in a scheme to solicit donations from individuals and businesses residing in Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio. Linville and Johnson contacted businesses and individuals around the Midwest in an attempt to raise funds for the Wounded Warrior Fund and the Wounded Warrior Foundation accounts by stating the funds were for veterans and their families. They solicited funds by telephone, facsimile and in person; many individuals were led to believe they were donating to the nationally renowned Wounded Warrior Project.
Linville and Johnson are alleged to have used the aliases of “Sergeant Bob Johnson” and “Paul Bradley” when making the solicitations. By using aliases, they masked their true identity and in many cases misled the donors into believing they were being solicited by a former military member thus adding to their credibility. In one scheme, the defendants solicited for donations to purchase overseas calling cards and in another, they requested school supplies for active duty military families. Bennett and Watson would pick up checks and other donations made by individuals and businesses who intended to donate to veterans and their families. Donations made to these programs and similar fictitious campaigns for veterans were not distributed to veterans and their families; instead, the donations were used by members of the conspiracy for their personal benefit.
Throughout the conspiracy, it is alleged that the defendants collected donations from over 1000 individuals and businesses totaling over $125,000 in cash, gift cards, merchandise and in-kind donations.
The Wounded Warrior Project is a legitimate 501(c) 3 organization with offices in multiple cities around the country. It is a veteran’s charity and service organization which offers a variety of programs, services, and events for wounded veterans of the military. This organization is separate and distinct from the Wounded Warrior entities operated by the defendants.
The United States Secret Service and the Clark County Sheriff’s Department investigated this case.
“The results of this investigation are a testament to the Secret Service’s commitment to strong partnerships between local and federal law enforcement agencies,” said Richard Ferretti, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service Louisville Field Office. “We would like to thank the Clark County Sheriff’s Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office – Southern District of Indiana for their hard work and partnership in this case.”
“I would like to commend the great teamwork between the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Marshalls, and U.S. Attorney’s Office for bringing these individuals to justice,” stated Sheriff Jamey Noel. “The alleged crimes in this case preyed on honest, hardworking people, families, and businesses in our community under a false pretense they were helping veterans. We owe our veterans a great debt of gratitude; we will not tolerate people taking advantage of them. We will continue to work together to investigate fraudulent organizations to protect our community.”
Kyle M. Sawa is prosecuting this case for the government and said all defendants face up to 20 years imprisonment if convicted.
An indictment is only a charge and not evidence of guilt. All defendants are considered innocent until proven otherwise in federal court.
In October 2017, United States Attorney Josh J. Minkler announced a Strategic Plan designed to shape and strengthen the District’s response to its most significant public safety challenges. This prosecution demonstrates the office’s firm commitment to use partnerships with law enforcement agencies to prosecute individuals who participate in large-scale fraud schemes and exploit vulnerable victims. See United States Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Indiana Strategic Plan Section 5.1