January 26, 2006
Joplin, Mo. — Two men who allegedly placed bogus collection boxes for Special Olympics in Joplin-area retailers are the target of a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Jay Nixon.
The lawsuit, filed today in Jasper County Circuit Court, cites William Bowman of Joplin and Darrell Winters of Royse City, Texas, for violating state merchandising practices for allegedly placing the boxes soliciting funds for Special Olympics in two retailers in the Joplin area.
The defendants allegedly represented to the retailers that the money collected in the boxes would be turned over to Special Olympics but then did not pass on the collected funds to the charity. When arrested by Joplin police on Dec. 6, the defendants were in a pick-up truck containing dozens of collection boxes adorned with the Special Olympics logo in the vehicle’s bed.
In early December, Nixon and Jasper County Prosecuting Attorney Dean Dankelson jointly filed criminal charges against Robert L. Winters. The two charges of unlawful merchandising practices allege Robert Winters also placed fake Special Olympics collection boxes in retail stores. Robert Winters is the brother of Darrell Winters. The criminal charges are still pending.
Nixon credited the investigative work of the Joplin Police Department in assisting with the case. The Attorney General is continuing to investigate reports that there may have been as many as 200 fake collection boxes placed in other retailers in the Joplin area and in northeast Oklahoma and southeast Kansas, including Pittsburg, Kan., and Broken Arrow, Sand Springs and Tulsa, Okla.
"These defendants fraudulently misused the good name of a respected charity, and will be held accountable," said Nixon. "This case reinforces the importance of Missourians having assurance that their money goes to the intended recipient when it comes to charitable giving."
Nixon is asking that the court issue a preliminary injunction against the defendants preventing them from continuing to engage in such unlawful merchandising practices. The lawsuit also asks the court to order the defendants to pay a civil penalty of $1,000 per violation, as well as all court, investigative and prosecution costs of the case.