A charity formed out of tragedy was forced to sever its ties with another nonprofit after its founder was accused of stolen valor.
Lance Corporal Skip Wells, a victim of last summer’s Chattanooga shooting, lives on through the Skip Wells Foundation. This group was founded after Cathy Wells, Skip’s mother, received an outpouring of financial support from her community. Instead of pocketing the proceeds, she formed the Foundation to donate that money to Junior ROTC and band programs that Skip loved during his lifetime.
After her son’s funeral, Wells met John Simpson of Marines & Mickey, a nonprofit that sends Marines and their families to Disney theme parks. Simpson claimed to be a “Force Recon Marine” who went on four tours in Afghanistan, and he leveraged her son’s love for Disney World to gain Wells’ trust and secure a $75,000 donation.
During their ensuing partnership, Simpson received $140,000 raised for or in the name of Skip Wells.
Last Friday, the Skip Wells Foundation announced on Facebook that they were cutting ties with Simpson and Marines & Mickey over stolen valor and fraud.
Simpson, it turned out, was never a high-ranking “Force Recon Marine.” He had never seen combat, and he didn’t even receive an honorable discharge. The Skip Wells Foundation confronted Simpson for taking their money under false pretenses, and they are formally charging him for stolen valor and tax fraud.
In a follow-up post, the charity reassured the community that it confirmed Simpson’s military record as best it could before going public with their accusations.
Jason Weeks, a cofounder of the Wells Foundation, told Nooga.com that stolen valor is the least of Simpson’s crimes. The real issue is that he preyed upon a grieving mother who just wanted to help other Marines.
“The bottom line is he f***ing stole $140,000 from a f***ing Gold Star Mother, and that is regardless of criminal issues,” Weeks said. “A Gold Star Mother in the United States is to be respected … For him to have taken advantage of her to the level that he did is going to cost him.”
Sandboxx, an app that connects families to their loved ones during deployment, also cut ties with Marines & Mickey over the accusations.
Meanwhile, military members have piled onto a photo posted by the Marine Reconnaissance Foundation to share their own sketchy encounters with Simpson.