Indianapolis man sentenced to four years for stealing donations intended for local veterans
Over $1 million collected at local retail outlets with only a fraction received by vets.
INDIANAPOLIS -Josh J. Minkler, Acting United States Attorney, announced today the sentence of an Indianapolis man for his role in stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars intended for use by local veterans. Scott M. Gruber 40, was sentenced to four years in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker after being convicted of two counts of mail fraud and one count of structuring to evade reporting requirements.
“Our veterans have made enormous sacrifices to keep us all safe and to steal money intended for their use is unthinkable,” said Minkler. “Besides being illegal, these actions are unpatriotic and will not be tolerated.”
Gruber established two professional fundraising organizations, Independent Promotions and Reliant Event Management to solicit funds for local veteran’s charities. He hired individuals to falsely represent themselves as volunteers and often as veterans to solicit funds from patrons outside local retail outlets and Monument Circle. The solicitors were schooled to tell patrons that 100% of the proceeds went to charities that support veterans. In fact, very little of the money ever made it to the intended veterans.
Gruber and his associates traveled to universities and colleges, as far away as Florida to solicit. Gruber personally instructed his solicitors to falsely represent that they were college students competing for scholarships by soliciting for veteran’s charities. The solicitors would tell prospective contributors that they were volunteers and any amount collected would be matched as a scholarship to them. In reality, the solicitors were paid by Gruber, 40 % of each solicitor’s take.
From 2010 until 2012 Gruber and his associates collected over $550,000 for the Purple Hearts Veterans Foundation (PHVF) and $575,000 for Service Connected Disabled Veterans of America (SDVA). Only eight percent of the funds from PHVF ever made it to the veteran’s charity and less than one percent ($4500) of the money raised for SDVA made it to any veteran. In total, Gruber raised over $1,045,651, very little of which made it the various charities.
This investigation was conducted by the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division, and the Indiana State Police.
According to Assistant United States Attorney James M. Warden, who prosecuted the case for the government, there were two sets of victims in the case; the contributors and the veterans the money was intended to support. Gruber must pay $365,750 in restitution, payable to the American Red Cross and serve three years of supervised release after his sentence at the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.