Tennessee Resident Charged with Defrauding Contributors to Sandy Hook-Related Charity
Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut and Kevin J. Kline, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the New Haven Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, today announced that a federal grand jury in New Haven has returned an indictment charging ROBERT TERRY BRUCE, 34, of Nashville, Tennessee, with defrauding contributors to an organization he established after the December 14, 2012 school shootings in Newtown.
The indictment was returned under seal on February 4, 2015, and BRUCE was arrested on Friday in Tennessee.
“This arrest serves as a warning to anyone who attempts to profit from the tragedy at Sandy Hook,” stated U.S. Attorney Daly. “With the assistance of the FBI, we will continue to prioritize the investigation of fraudulent schemes that exploit the generosity of donors responding to this tragedy.”
“Creating a fraudulent charity to exploit a tragedy for personal gain is unconscionable,” stated FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge Kline. “These investigations will continue to be a priority for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”
According to the indictment, BRUCE founded 26.4.26, an organization that began soliciting charitable donations after the December 14, 2012 school shootings in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. In early 2013, BRUCE solicited and received contributions to 26.4.26 in connection with a charity athletic event in Gilford, New Hampshire called the Schools 4 Schools run. BRUCE promoted the event via social media, and solicited contributions to 26.4.26 through an online PayPal account by representing to potential donors that the purpose of the event was “to help raise funds for increased school safety, families of victims, memorials to teacher heroes, awareness and prevention in schools across America.” BRUCE further represented to potential donors that “all proceeds will go to the 26.4.26 Foundation.”
The indictment further alleges that, in early 2013, BRUCE also solicited contributions to 26.4.26 in connection with a charity athletic event in Tennessee called CrossFit Cares. As he had in the New Hampshire event, BRUCE promoted the event via social media, and solicited contributions to 26.4.26 through PayPal by representing to potential donors that “all proceeds will go to the 26.4.26 Foundation” and that the “mission of 26.4.26 is to provide funding for the families of victims, memorials for teacher heroes and to increase safety in schools across the country.”
Rather than using the funds raised to support his purported mission, the indictment alleges that BRUCE used most of the funds to enrich himself and to support his personal training business. Several of the victim donors are from Connecticut.
The indictment charges BRUCE with six counts of wire fraud, a charge that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years on each count.
Following his arrest on February 13, BRUCE appeared in federal court in Nashville and was released on a $20,000 bond. His arraignment in the District of Connecticut is scheduled for February 23 at 10:00 a.m. in Hartford.
U.S. Attorney Daly stressed that an indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. Charges are only allegations and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This matter is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Wines. U.S. Attorney Daly also acknowledged the critical assistance provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee.