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Attorney General's News Release

April 2, 2014

Criminal charges filed in charity scam

Jefferson City, Mo. – Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster today joined St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney Tim Lohmar in announcing criminal charges against William Harshbarger for stealing funds people thought they were donating to the Wounded Warrior Project. Similar charges have been filed by Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch in St. Louis County.

In St. Charles County, Lohmar and Koster filed seven felony counts against Harshbarger, including charges of stealing, forgery, financial exploitation of the elderly and making misrepresentations in soliciting charity funds.

In St. Louis County, McCulloch and Koster filed four felony counts against Harshbarger, including charges of stealing by deceit and making misrepresentations in soliciting funds.  

Harshbarger is in custody in St. Charles County.

Koster said the Wounded Warrior Project tipped off his office that Harshbarger was raising money supposedly on behalf of the Wounded Warrior Project, but in fact was not authorized by the organization to do so and was keeping the money for himself.

The criminal complaints allege that Harshbarger:

  • Routinely solicited donations outside of retail stores in St. Louis and St. Charles counties, falsely representing the contributions would go to the Wounded Warrior Project. The complaint said he received at least one $1,000 check written by an individual.
  • Accepted an invitation to attend a girl's 15th birthday party to receive donations supposedly for the Wounded Warrior Project in lieu of gifts for the girl, where he collected $1,080 and kept the money for himself.
  • Received almost $750 from a 3-day fundraising event at the Living Word Christian School in O'Fallon, falsely representing that he was raising the funds on behalf of the local Wounded Warrior Project.
  • Altered a check donated by a senior citizen meant to be for $30 to appear that she gave $300, and then deposited the check in an account he used for himself.

The Attorney General's Office estimates that Harshbarger collected at least $6,200, none of which went to the Wounded Warriors Project.

"Many good-hearted people gave money to Mr. Harshbarger, believing that they were contributing to a well-established, nationally recognized charity, benefiting our nation's service men and women," Koster said. "The Attorney General's Office, along with the St. Charles County and St. Louis County prosecutors' offices, cannot stand by when any individual, including Mr. Harshbarger, collects donations, falsely, in the name of a respected organization, and then keeps the money for his personal use."

"Law enforcement won't stand by and allow genuine and caring citizens in our community to be illegally deceived," said Lohmar.

"These allegations involve the deceiving of caring citizens into believing they were assisting military heroes, when in fact the defendant was lining his own pockets," McCulloch said. "I look forward to collaborating with Tim Lohmar, the St. Charles County Prosecutor, and Attorney General Koster in the prosecution of their cases."

Michelle Roberts, Communications Director with the Wounded Warrior Project said, "On occasion Wounded Warrior Project is notified of people using our reputable name for ill-gotten gains. It is important for people to know that we as a reputable nonprofit organization do not solicit cash donations door-to-door or outside of stores. We greatly appreciate the hard work of the Missouri Attorney General's Office and Prosecutors McCulloch and Lohmar in filing criminal charges to protect donors and help ensure their donations go to the charitable causes they choose to support."

As in all criminal cases, the charges against the defendant are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent until or unless proved guilty in a court of law.

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