December 6, 2005
Joplin, Mo. — A Joplin man who allegedly placed bogus collection boxes for Special Olympics in Joplin-area retailers has been arrested and faces criminal charges filed jointly by Attorney General Jay Nixon and Jasper County Prosecuting Attorney Dean Dankelson.
Robert L. Winters (DOB - 5/29/42) has been charged with two felony counts of unlawful merchandising practices in Jasper County Circuit Court. The charges allege Winters placed bogus collection boxes soliciting funds for Special Olympics in two retailers in the Joplin area. He allegedly represented to the retailers that money collected in the boxes would be turned over to Special Olympics but then did not turn over the collected funds to the charity. Winters is currently being held in the Jasper County jail.
Nixon said his office learned of the allegations on Monday (Dec. 5) from the state office of Special Olympics Missouri. The Attorney General credited the investigative work of the Joplin Police Department in helping with the case. Nixon is continuing to investigate reports that as many as 200 fake collection boxes may have been placed with other retailers in the Joplin area and in northeast Oklahoma and southeast Kansas, including Pittsburg, Kan.; and Broken Arrow, Sand Springs and Tulsa, Okla.
"Particularly around Christmas, no one likes to have a Grinch show up and misuse the good name of a charity," Nixon said. "When Missourians donate to a charity, they should be assured that their money goes to the intended recipient. Special Olympics Missouri is one of our state's most prominent charities and has had a long relationship with law enforcement. Those who seek to profit by fraudulently using their good name, or the name of any other legitimate charity, will be held accountable."
"This type of deception is so obviously inappropriate, but especially in a time when so much of our funding has been redirected to hurricane victim relief," said Mark Musso, president and CEO of Special Olympics Missouri. "We are appreciative that Attorney General Nixon, who has long been a protector of charities like Special Olympics Missouri, took this case seriously and acted swiftly to bring these criminal charges."
Unlawful merchandising practices is a class D felony, punishable upon conviction by up to four years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000 per count. The pending charges against the defendant are merely accusations. As in all criminal cases, the defendant is presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty.