A former Marine veteran is alleged to have bilked people into donating money to a charity that was supposed to send Marines and their families to Disney resorts and help cover the costs for families attending Marine boot camp graduations.
A federal indictment filed in the U.S. District Court of South Carolina says John Simpson, the founder of Marines & Mickey, pocketed most of the money for personal use.
According to feds, Simpson raised about $481,000 from May 2014 through June 2016, but only about $90,000 was used for the intended charitable purposes. Court documents allege Simpson pocketed the nearly $391,000 for his own “personal use and enrichment.”
Simpson allegedly lied about his military record to solicit donations for his charity. According to the indictment, Simpson falsely claimed he was a retired Marine master sergeant and prior drill instructor and recon Marine.
But the feds said Simpson served less than five years as a disbursing clerk, received a bad conduct discharge in 1998 and was reduced in rank to private following a special court-martial for being absent without leave.
Court documents said Simpson never obtained a rank higher than lance corporal.
The primary victim of the scam, according to a federal indictment, was the mother of one of the Marines killed in the 2015 shooting at the military recruiting center in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The Charlotte Observer identified the mother as Cathy Wells, whose son, Lance Cpl. Skip Wells, was killed in the 2015 attack.
The indictment says the mother gave nearly $135,000 dollars to the charity through money from her son’s death benefits and donations in her son’s honor.
A second victim, according to feds, was the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga, which donated $25,000.
Simpson was also alleged to have scammed at least seven active-duty Marines who recently graduated from boot camp by making unauthorized bank withdrawals from their accounts.
According to the indictment, Simpson contacted the recently graduated Marines during family day events held aboard the Parris Island, South Carolina, recruit depot and eventually convinced them to donate $25 on a monthly recurring basis.
“Instead of making the agreed upon withdrawals, Simpson made unauthorized withdrawals from their accounts in a combined total amount of more than $5,000,” the indictment reads.
The Independent Mail reported Simpson was sentenced to nine years in prison in May 2018 for sexually assaulting his former girlfriend.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.