Everyone has, at some time in their lives, needed a bit more money than they had in their pockets, and there’s no shame in admitting that. Everyone handles such a situation differently; some work overtime or find a second job, others ask for money from friends with funds to spare, and others still simply hope for a change in their fortunes and buy a lottery ticket.
Christopher Edwards decided that he would scam money from people by starting a charity and pocketing the money that it raised. To make sure that his charity would be popular, he decided to pick one of the most popular causes to raise money for; veterans. Edwards started his very own charity, claiming that he would help veterans with their electric bills, and walked away with a handsome profit for himself.
The charity idea itself is an interesting one. Edwards’ charity, named ‘Power to our Vets,’ claimed that it would help veterans with their power bills by selling solar power to electric companies in the Bay Area, selling to such names as Duke Energy and TECO. According to State Attorney Brian Haas, all of this was a blatant falsehood.
Haas stated that “there were never any solar panels and there was never a real charity. It was a complete scam.” Indeed, it seems like much of what Edwards and his phony charity did was done completely illegitimately.
Haas and others accused Edwards of multiple wrongdoings in connection with the charity. Edwards created social media accounts and even a website to promote ‘fundraising events’ for the charity. He even went as far as to sell raffle tickets to help raise money, though he never awarded the winners with the prizes they were told they could receive.
Records produced by injured parties show that Edwards raffled off a Harley Davidson motorcycle in 2016 and that the winner even paid the sales tax on the motorcycle (a standard stipulation in most contests). Even after doing this the ‘winner’ of the contest never received their motorcycle, which Edwards likely used to rake in ‘charitable’ donations to his phony organization.
A local motorcycle dealer, McKibben Power Sports, said that they held a Honda for one raffle, waiting for the winner to come claim the vehicle. It sat in their showroom, losing value and costing McKibben Power Sports to lose money.
In November, Edwards claimed that he held the same contest again, strangely with the same person winning the motorcycle a second time. Again, they never received the prize, and the motorcycle remains with the dealer.
Worse still, Edwards left real military veterans in the lurch with his program. One of the veterans he victimized, Scott Owens, is a disabled vet who said that Edwards had promised to pay his power bills. Instead of making good on that promise, Edwards bounced two checks to Owens’ power company (which likely incurred an additional charge on the utility bill, as companies usually charge money for denied checks, aside from other legal issues bounced checks may have caused), and never responded to Owens’ inquiries. As a result, his power was turned off.
According to the State Attorney’s Office, Edwards stole thousands of dollars intended for veterans using this fake charity. This is not the first time that someone has created a fake charity in order to benefit financially from it, and veteran charities are extremely popular targets for this kind of scam.
Citizens in the United States show a tremendous amount of support for the United States Military in general, and for veterans in particular. Because of this, military charities can bring in a lot of money, and top military charities bring in millions of dollars a year. This explains why phony military scams are so common, and why they can be so profitable for the dishonest.
There are great charities that do amazing things for military veterans, and many of them serve veterans nationwide. If people want to give to a charitable organization that will do good work, and that will actually make sure the money ends up being spent on veterans, they need only do a little bit of research to ensure that they have found a good charity.
Thanks to the widespread availability of internet technologies and how easy it is to create a website these days, anyone can put together a website and give their charity a veneer of respectability. However, actual charities are incorporated and registered with the government, and they are also tracked by websites such as Charity Navigator.
Smaller charities that claim they work with large companies like TECO and Duke Energy can be easily investigated simply by calling TECO or Duke Energy and speaking to someone within the company who works with charities or ‘community outreach’ programs.They will be able to confirm if the charity is actually a partner of theirs and if they’re making claims to be a partner without actually having a partnership with a large corporation, that large corporation has the resources to initiate legal action against a phony charity.
Veterans who served the country and have come back sometimes need a hand up, and after everything that they endure to service this great land they absolutely deserve a hand from their fellow citizens. Just make sure that when you’re giving money to a charity to help veterans, the veterans are actually seeing some sort of benefit from it.