The founder of a group that provides care packages to troops overseas and aid to families at home must pay $310,586.52 after failing to account for her group�s donations, an Illinois state official said.

The money will be placed in a special fund and distributed to other charities that support troops and their families, said Robyn Ziegler, spokeswoman for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

On Feb. 21, a circuit court judge in Cook County found that Arlyn McClaughry, founder of Operation Military Pride had failed to register her group as a charitable organization or to account for funds the group had raised, Ziegler said.

�The amount ordered to be paid by her is the amount that went into the three accounts she opened in the name of OMP,� Ziegler said in an e-mail Monday to Stars and Stripes.

But McClaughry denied any wrongdoing Monday in a phone interview.

�I would never cheat the military, I know how hard it is, how hard the life is,� said McClaughry, who added her husband was in the Army and Marine Corps for 14 years total.

McClaughry said her former attorney was in the process of turning over her group�s financial records to state investigators when the judgment was levied against her.

She also said she did not know how much money her group raised but said her accountant had that information.

McClaughry declined to say who her accountant was, saying she needs to hire a new attorney first before she can release pertinent financial information.

McClaughry confirmed that Operation Military Pride was never registered as a charity or nonprofit organization, but she said her group never claimed to be either such organization.

�We�re just a little organization trying to do a good thing,� she said.

Gina Grubb, a volunteer with Operation Military Pride, said she can vouch for the group�s good work.

Grubb said her husband and his unit received care packages from the group while he was deployed in Iraq with the 82nd Airborne Division. The packages included food, videogames and magazines.

�He actually came back a little heavier than when he got over there because of all the goodies they were giving,� said Grubb, of Fort Benning, Ga.

Grubb called the judgment against McClaughry �ridiculous.�

�She�s done so much to support the military,� Grubb said. �It�s a real shame they target people like that because they�re the ones that have made the difference.�

McClaughry said she plans to appeal the judgment against her as soon as she hires a new attorney.

Until then, her group will not collect donations, but it will continue to send care packages to troops overseas, McClaughry said.

�I believe it�s the right thing to do until they all come home,� she said.

The Operation Military Pride Web site has a link to America Supports You, a Defense Department effort to support U.S. troops and their families.

But the group is not affiliated with America Supports you, said Allison Barber, deputy undersecretary of Defense for Public Affairs and founder of America Supports You.

Barber is also head of American Forces Information Service, which includes Stars and Stripes.

�At America Supports You, we always recommend that the general public research any organization that they are going to support so that they are comfortable with the mission and execution of that program,� Barber said in a Monday e-mail to Stars and Stripes.

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