Embattled founder of dubious Marines & Mickey charity arrested in Florida

By TYLER JETT | The Chattanooga Times/Free Press (Tribune News Service) | Published: January 20, 2017

John Shannon Simpson, who started a dubious charity to help Marine families and honor a lance corporal killed in the July 16 shooting, was arrested in Lee County, Fla., this week.

Simpson, 41, is charged with burglary, kidnapping and sexual assault. According to a Lee County Sheriff's Office incident report, a former employee of his charity told investigators that Simpson had stalked her for months before showing up to her house Tuesday.

She said he carried her into her shower, undressed her and washed her off. He is also accused of penetrating her with his finger. After the shower, she said, Simpson tried to perform oral sex, but she ran out of the room.

A sergeant found her back there. The accuser had texted a friend when Simpson arrived, according to the report. And the friend asked the sheriff's office to check on her.

"As (the accuser) approached Sgt. Walsh, he could see a look of fear and concern on her face," an investigator wrote in the incident report Tuesday.

Simpson's statements to the sheriff's office have been redacted from the report.

In 2014, Simpson started Marines & Mickey, a charity that sent Marines and their families to Disney World or Disneyland when they were home from duty, He also sent parents to boot camp graduations at Marine Corps. recruit depots in San Diego and Parris Island.

In July 2015, he became close with Cathy Wells, the mother of Lance Cpl. Squire 'Skip" Wells, one of five servicemen killed during a mass shooting at the U.S. Naval and Marine Reserve Center.

Simpson and Cathy Wells began raising money together for Marines & Mickey to honor her son. But in February 2016, Cathy Wells publicly broke from the charity, saying that Simpson was not all he claimed.

On the charity's website, someone advertised Simpson as a former Force Recon Marine, master sergeant and Parris Island drill instructor, with more than 20 years of experience in the Corps.

In fact, according to the U.S. Marine Corps. Manpower and Reserve Affairs Department, Simpson actually served about three years, went before a court martial after an arrest and was dishonorably discharged in 1997 as a private, the lowest rank possible.

Last year, Cathy Wells told the Times Free Press she helped Simpson raise about $160,000. She asked for her money back. She said Simpson refused. Her friends asked him to turn over the financial records for his charity. Simpson again refused.

Meanwhile, a collection of Marines' parents had also complained to the NCIS that Simpson was also defrauding them through his charity.

Parents who volunteered for the charity told the Times Free Press that they raised tens of thousands of dollars every couple months, only to see Simpson spend $2,000-$3,000 of those proceeds on the charity.

Simpson denied misusing money. But an NCIS spokesman confirmed last year that the department was investigating Simpson's charity. He could face a charge of Stolen Valor, a federal offense for making money off a lie about your military record.

The accuser in Simpson's arrest Tuesday had been one of his last supporters. But she told the sheriff's office that she tried to distance herself from Simpson in October, after she said she realized he was committing crimes.

Even so, she said, Simpson texted her sexually explicit pictures. And on Sunday, he showed up to a restaurant where she was eating with her children.

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