Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has charged the chairman of the U.S. Fallen Heroes Foundation with diverting the organization's charitable funds for his personal use.
Evan Walter Coleman, who also uses the name Walter E. Coleman, founded the U.S. Fallen Heroes Foundation in March 2010, ostensibly to construct a national memorial in Kennedale, Texas, for Iraq, Afghanistan and Gulf War veterans. Coleman abruptly resigned as the charity's chairman just one day before he was required to respond to a subpoena from the AG's office.
Earlier this summer, Abbott's office was contacted by veterans who expressed concerns about the legitimacy of Coleman and his organization. After reviewing information provided by the veterans, state investigators concluded Coleman fabricated IRS forms to create the impression that his foundation was a legitimate, registered 501(c)(3) public charity.
According to state investigators, Coleman solicited charitable contributions from individual and business donors for a national monument honoring Iraq, Afghanistan and Gulf War veterans. To help raise funds, Coleman placed donation jars for the monument in several business locations.
Coleman, who used the additional name Walter Raleigh Coleman Jr., falsely told donors that the foundation was a legitimate, federally recognized charity and was authorized to receive tax-exempt donations. In addition to misleading beneficiaries, Coleman also made these false representations to the City of Kennedale and the local First National Bank.
In order to acquire a real estate purchase contract with the city for land on which to build the memorial, Coleman provided a fraudulent IRS letter and falsified tax-exempt application. Additionally, Abbott's preliminary review of the U.S. Fallen Heroes Foundation's records indicated that Coleman diverted donors' charitable contributions to cover his personal expenses -- including his mortgage payments and utility bills.
After submitting his resignation as chairman of the foundation on July 28, Coleman notified the Office of the Attorney General that he had appointed Larry W. Summers to act as new chairman in his absence. Summers, who is not a defendant in this case, has fully cooperated with investigators from both the attorney general's office and the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office.
The state's enforcement action is seeking civil penalties of up to $20,000 per violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, as well as attorneys' fees and court costs. Court documents ask the court to set aside any funds that were fraudulently collected under false pretenses and decide whether to order that donated funds be returned to contributors or redistributed to the reorganized U.S. Fallen Heroes Foundation.