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.
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.
"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.
"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.