May 2, 2007
Joplin, Mo. — A man who placed bogus collection boxes for Special Olympics in Joplin-area retailers in 2005 was found guilty today of two counts of merchandising practices fraud in Jasper County Circuit Court. The verdict against Robert L. Winters (DOB - 5/29/42) was the result of criminal charges that were jointly filed by Attorney General Jay Nixon and Jasper County Prosecuting Attorney Dean Dankelson in December 2005.
Unlawful merchandising practices is a Class D felony, punishable by up to four years in prison and a $5,000 fine per violation. Sentencing before Judge David C. Dally is set for June 11.
According to Nixon, the defendant and his brother Darrell Winters, along with another man, William Bowman, placed bogus collection boxes soliciting funds for Special Olympics in various shops in the Joplin area. He represented to the retailers that money collected in the boxes would be turned over to Special Olympics, but then did not pass on the collected funds to the charity. Winters was arrested by Joplin police on Dec. 5, 2005.
“This defendant fraudulently misused the good name of a respected charity, and is being held accountable,” Nixon said. “We were pleased to work closely with Jasper County prosecutor Dean Dankelson and the Joplin Police Department in ensuring that this type of criminal activity is stopped.”
Nixon filed a civil lawsuit against Darrell Winters and Bowman in January 2006, and is still prosecuting the civil case against Darrell Winters. Bowman entered into a settlement in October 2006 in which he agreed to pay $1,000 to the Attorney General’s office to pay for the costs of the case and to donate $500 to Special Olympics.
Overall, Nixon’s office investigated reports of as many as 200 fake collection boxes placed in other Joplin retailers as well as in northeast Oklahoma and southeast Kansas.