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Utah man bound over for trial on charity scam

Utah man bound over for trial on charity scam

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A judge ruled that a fundraiser who fell into debt sending World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., will stand trial on communications fraud and other charges.

Paul McSweeney, 50, told The Associated Press he did nothing wrong.

Prosecutors say McSweeney didn't tell donors the money he was raising last year was paying off expenses for a previous trip in 2006 to the nation's capital.

McSweeney's group, Our Unsung Heroes, had to cancel a trip last year when it ran out of money.

McSweeney said Wednesday he managed to send about 250 veterans to Washington.

"It was a fantastic experience," McSweeney said from his home in Mapleton. "That's what matters to me."

Utah Assistant Attorney General Neal Gunnarson said McSweeney kept some of the donations for personal use.

The prosecutor didn't say how that money was spent, but McSweeney said he took a stipend of $800 a month, which was "totally ethical and legal."

His lawyer, Guy Black, said McSweeney didn't intend to defraud anybody and was guilty only of failing to raise enough money.

Third District Judge Vernice Trease set McSweeney's next court date for Aug. 20. He faces six counts of communications fraud and one of engaging in a pattern of unlawful activity, all second-degree felonies.

"I think it just got bigger than he was. It just hurt him so much to admit that he had failed," Judy Lemmons of Clearfield, who stepped in last year to salvage a trip for the veterans, told the Standard-Examiner of Ogden. "He just kept hoping against hope that someone would come forth with some money."

McSweeney told the AP he was largely being supported by his wife's income while raising money for Our Unsung Heroes. Now he's working several jobs, including accounts-payable receiver for a grocery store.

"There's a lot of stuff put out that's terribly inaccurate and wrong, and I haven't been able to respond to it yet," he said.


Information from: Deseret News

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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