(KMOV) – A St. Louis-area man faces several charges after authorities say he collected thousands of dollars in donations purportedly for a charity that provides aid for wounded veterans, but kept all the money for himself.
William Harshbarger was charged Wednesday in St. Charles County on seven felony counts, including charges of stealing, forgery, financial exploitation of the elderly and making misrepresentations in soliciting charity funds. He was also charged in St. Louis County with stealing by deceit and making misrepresentations in soliciting funds.
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 in St. Charles and St. Louis counties 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, officials Harshbarger raised more than $750 at a three-day fundraising event in O’Fallon, Mo, again falsely representing he was raising money for the Wounded Warrior Project.
Authorities say Harshbarger also altered a senior citizen’s $30 donation check to make it look like $300, then deposited it in a personal account.
Officials estimate he collected more than $6,200, none of which went to the Wounded Warrior Project.
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," Missouri Attorney General Chris 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 scammers 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.