Jed Boal ReportingA Utah soldier who plays Santa Claus to thousands of Iraqi children ran into a Grinch who stole $30,000 from his humanitarian project.
You may recall the name Chief Wiggles. He's the Utah National Guard soldier who made a simple request for toys on the internet ten months ago, and the donations have never stopped. Now, Operation Give is fighting to get back money apparently pocketed by a shipping company.
Paul Holton, better known as Chief Wiggles, is the driving force behind a runaway snowball that brings joy to thousands of Iraqi children.
Paul Holton, Chief Wiggles: “The kids have really suffered during Saddam's reign. They've been neglected, so I'm just trying, along with a whole group of people, trying to give them hope."
While deployed in Iraq with the 141st Military Intelligence Unit, Chief Wiggles made an internet plea for toys. Donations flooded in and before long he'd created Operation Give, which now has tons of toys, school supplies, clothes and hygiene kits bound for Iraq.
This spring, Operation Give paid Atlas Line of Atlanta to ship the goods to Kuwait. Atlas got the containers to Kuwait, but the Kuwaiti company receiving them wanted a $10,000 deposit on each container. Operation Give sent the $30,000 to Atlas, but the Kuwaiti company never got the money because Atlas never sent it.
Paul Holton, Chief Wiggles: “It left our account and went into theirs, we know that much."
One container made it to Baghdad and the others are on the way. Atlas won't take Holton's phone calls, or ours, and the business has cleared out of its Atlanta office. As far as Holton knows, the money is gone.
Operation Give will come up with the money, but it's frustrating.
Paul Holton, Chief Wiggles: “It's a terrible thing. These funds are not mine. They've been entrusted to me, donated by hundreds of Americans to cover our expenses, and to buy toys and other things that are needed."
Operation Give has contacted the Attorney General in Georgia and they'll have a lawyer look into it.