Ohio police search for swindler of funds meant for wounded warriors
Columbus police are looking for a Franklinton man who they say pocketed thousands of dollars that was supposed to be for wounded veterans, and they also want to hear from the people he might have scammed.
Joseph Earl Steward, 45, had been going door-to-door throughout central Ohio since at least June, asking businesses and residents to donate money to the Wounded Warrior Project, detectives said.
The project is legitimate, but police say that what Steward did wasn’t.
Officials with the Wounded Warrior Project, which provides services to injured military members as they transition to civilian life, said they have no record of Steward working for the organization and have received no money from him. The project also noted that it does not solicit door-to-door.
Fraud detectives said Steward gave receipts to donors and had records of more than 300 donors who gave money. Most donations were $10 to $20, but there also were checks of up to $500. Steward provided donors with a fake tax ID number taken off a fraudulent form.
“These are good-hearted people who thought they were donating to the Wounded Warrior Project,” said Columbus Police Sgt. Keith Kline. Police say that Steward collected at least several thousand dollars.
Steward, whose last known address was on S. Central Avenue, was collecting money while using the name of a family member, either Charles or Chuck. He is charged with one count of identity theft, a fifth-degree felony, in both Franklin County Municipal Court and in Madison County.
More charges are expected as police talk to people who donated money to him.
Also, in Grove City Mayor’s Court, Steward was charged with impersonating a police officer. Police say he went into at least two businesses in the city, asking for donations and saying he was a deputy with the sheriff’s office.
Anyone with information is asked to call Columbus police at 614-645-4545 and ask for the fraud unit.