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St. Charles Man Charged With Falsely Soliciting Donations For Wounded Veterans

(Shula Neuman/St. Louis Public Radio)

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster today announced criminal charges against a St. Charles man accused of falsely collecting donations for the Wounded Warriors Project, a national nonprofit organization that assists wounded American veterans. 

St. Charles County prosecutors joined Koster in investigating and filing felony charges against William Harshbarger, 34, who is himself a wounded veteran of the Iraq War but who is not affiliated with the Wounded Warriors Project. Harshbarger is accused of soliciting about $6,000 in donations that he kept for himself. In June,Koster announced a temporary restraining order against Harshbarger.

Harshbarger is being held by the St. Charles County Department of Corrections. He is charged with stealing, forgery, financial exploitation of the elderly and making misrepresentations in soliciting charity funds.

The prosecutors said they acted on a tip from the Florida-based Wounded Warrior Project. The organization received no donations from Harshbarger.

The criminal complaints allege that Harshbarger:

  • Solicited donations outside Schnucks and Walmart stores in St. Charles and St. Louis counties.
  • Collected more than $1,000 in donations at the birthday party of a Pattonville High School student who invited him to attend and solicit donations on behalf of the charity, in lieu of gifts.
  • Accepted nearly $750 from a fundraising event at the Living Word Christian School in O’Fallon.
  • Altered a check from a senior citizen, changing the amount from $30 to $300.

“Many good-hearted people gave money to Mr. Harshbarger, believing that they were contributing to a well-established, nationally recognized charity, benefiting our nation’s servicemen and women,’’ Koster said.
St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney Tim Lohmar joined Koster in announcing the charges. Harshbarger, who was convicted of stealing in 2010, is currently on probation and is considered a prior and persistent offender. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years each on three Class C felony charges and up to seven years each on four Class D charges.

“We as law enforcement cannot stand by and allow any individual to profit from deceptive criminal practices, such as this -- all in the name of a respected charitable organization,’’ Lohmar said.

Koster said the prosecutors will take into account that Harshbarger's status as a wounded veteran.

“Everybody on the prosecution side has respect for the fact that he is himself a service person and was wounded as part of his service,’’ Koster said. “We’re going to work that into our calculation on what is the appropriate punishment here, but it does not in any way give him or anybody else a green light to steal from other servicemen and women nationally through the name of the Wounded Warrior Project.’’

Mary Delach Leonard is a veteran journalist who joined the St. Louis Beacon staff in April 2008 after a 17-year career at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where she was a reporter and an editor in the features section. Her work has been cited for awards by the Missouri Associated Press Managing Editors, the Missouri Press Association and the Illinois Press Association. In 2010, the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis honored her with a Spirit of Justice Award in recognition of her work on the housing crisis. Leonard began her newspaper career at the Belleville News-Democrat after earning a degree in mass communications from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, where she now serves as an adjunct faculty member. She is partial to pomeranians and Cardinals.