Missouri man solicited donations, kept money

Wednesday, April 2, 2014 | 5:05 p.m. CDT

ST. LOUIS — A suburban St. Louis man collected thousands of dollars in donations purportedly for a charity that provides aid for wounded veterans, but kept all the money for himself, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster said Wednesday.

Koster and St. Charles County prosecutor Tim Lohmar were in St. Louis to announce charges against William Harshbarger, 34, of St. Charles. He faces seven criminal counts in St. Charles County and four in St. Louis County. Authorities say he fraudulently collected at least $6,200.

Harshbarger is jailed in St. Charles on $35,000 bond. He does not yet have a listed attorney.

Harshbarger is accused of soliciting unauthorized donations for the Wounded Warrior Project, often standing outside stores to ask for money. In one case, Koster said, he accepted an invitation to attend a girl's 15th birthday party to accept donations from her guests, who were asked to give to the charity instead of buying a birthday gift.

Harshbarger collected $1,080 at the party, Koster said, and none went to the Wounded Warrior Project.

In another case, Koster said, Harshbarger altered a check written as a $30 donation to make it a $300 donation.

Harshbarger was arrested after a suspicious donor contacted the Wounded Warrior Project, which alerted authorities in Missouri.

"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 servicemen and women," Koster said.

Harshbarger himself is a veteran who was wounded in service. But Koster and Lohmar said he was never authorized to collect money for the Wounded Warrior Project, and never gave the charity any of the money he collected.

The Wounded Warrior Project raises awareness and seeks donations to meet the needs of those injured in military service. Spokeswoman Michelle Roberts said in a statement that there have been other instances where con artists illegally used the organization's name. She said potential donors should know that the project does not solicit cash donations door-to-door or outside of stores.

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