A former Marine and his son allegedly stole tens of thousands of dollars from the Kentucky arm of the Marine Corps League, including donations intended for the national Toys for Tots program.

A grand jury last month indicted James "Rusty" Russell Gaines, 51, of Frankfort, Kentucky, on felony and misdemeanor charges related to the alleged thefts, which surfaced earlier this year. The one-time Marine's son, Joshua Gaines, 30, also of Frankfort, was indicted on one felony count of theft by unlawful taking or disposition of property less than $10,000 for his role, according to court documents.

James Gaines, who previously was convicted of a felony in Florida in 2008, court documents show, began by targeting the statewide branch of the Marine Corps League. Entrusted with the group's money, he allegedly emptied its funds and fraudulently opened a credit card linked to its financial account beginning sometime after June 1, 2012, according to the indictment.

He later turned his attention to his local outpost, said Joel Jennings, commandant of the Frankfort-based Lt. Presley O'Bannon Detachment. Named adjutant and paymaster, James Gaines took control of the group's money and began siphoning it off, saidJennings said.

They discovered the missing money dollars when James Gaines was replaced in June. After that, they began looking into everything the elder Gaines was involved in, Jennings said, including the group's inaugural Toys for Tots campaign in 2013.

While the detachment helped the Salvation Army collect money and gifts for needy children in the past, James Gaines mounted an effort to join the annual program run through the Marine Reserve — with his son at its head. Josh Gaines underwent the required training and became the group's Toys for Tots coordinator.

Detachment members collected about $1,685 and between 30 and 40 bags of toys that year, Jennings estimates. After investigating, they suspected learned that Josh Gaines might have kept the donations, he said.

"Once he completed the training, he never reported any toys or money," Jennings said. "He simply just pocketed the money."

Between the two of them, the Gaines allegedly stole upwards of $40,000 in all before being found out, according to the Associated Press. A relative confirmed the elder Gaines served as a Marine — Jennings believes it was in the early 1980s — but officials with Corps Manpower and Reserve Affairs were not immediately able to provide his service record. Attempts to reach the duo were unsuccessful.

It's not the first time Toys for Tots has been the victim of fraud, said Brian Murray, vice president of operations for the nationwide campaign.

"Whenever something like this occurs, we investigate, and if possible, prosecute," he said via email. "We are but a small representation of the greater society — other groups have this problem, too."

With the detachment's former Toys for Tots coordinator now facing charges, the group bowed out of the program this year. Instead, they returned to helping the Salvation Army's collection effort.

If there is a silver lining to the situation, it's that the community has offered even more support since the alleged crimes made local headlines, said Jennings, who served with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit as a battery clerk between 1988 and 1992.

"We were on par until this story broke and our toy contributions have tripled and our cash donations have doubled just within the last week," he said.

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