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Man Arrested For Phony Special Olympics Donation Scam
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 21, 2005

OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA & JOPLIN, MISSOURI--Law enforcement officials in at least three states are warning citizens and business owners to be on the lookout for a scam designed to take advantage of shoppers' and merchants' goodwill during the holidays.

The scam involves hundreds of collection boxes set up near cash registers in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma that claim to raise money for Special Olympics.

Earlier this month, Mark Musso, president of Special Olympics Missouri, notified Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon that the organization did not endorse the boxes, and that none of the money from the boxes had been turned over to Special Olympics.

Musso said he was alerted to the scheme by a Special Olympics volunteer who saw a fake collection box with the organization's logo at a shop in Pittsburg, Kansas.

"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 Musso.

On December 5, police in Joplin, Missouri arrested 63-year-old Robert L. Winters and charged him with two felony counts of unlawful merchandising practice, for allegedly installing the phony donation boxes in two tobacco shops. Winters is suspected of placing as many as 200 other bogus collection boxes across all three states, the Joplin Globe reported.

On Monday, Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson and Special Olympics Oklahoma executive director Adrian DeWendt told reporters that Missouri investigators had seized a list from Winters that included 61 Oklahoma businesses where he had allegedly placed mock collection boxes.

"The scam is simple to operate," Edmondson said. "The scam artist claims he represents Special Olympics and asks businesses if he can place a donation box near the register. All he has to do is come around from time to time to collect the money."

If convicted, Winters could face up to four years in prison and a maximum fine of $5,000 on each count.

Related:
"Man accused of fleecing charity benefactors" (Joplin Globe)

http://www.joplinglobe.com/story.php?story_id=213884&c=87
"Nixon, Dankelson charge Joplin man with setting up fake collection boxes for Special Olympics in area retailers" (Special Olympics Missouri)
http://www.somo.org/newspublications/news_details.aspx?newsID=5030

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