A Mapleton man who ran a charity intended to benefit World War II veterans is scheduled to make an appearance Wednesday in 3rd District Court to face six felony counts of communications fraud and one felony charge for a pattern of unlawful activity.
Court documents state that Paul W. McSweeney, 50, misappropriated $90,000 in part to pay off a 2006 trip that sent a group of World War II vets to Washington D.C. for free. The misappropriated money is in reference to funds paid by people who accompanied the vets, whose trip was funded by donations made to McSweeney's charitable group Our Unsung Heroes.
An investigation of McSweeney's fund raising alleges he was using funds being raised for a May 2007 trip to pay off the 2006 trip. Two days before another group of vets was supposed to leave for the May trip, everyone involved was told there would be no trip, due to lack of funds.
"It came as a total shock to me, that there was no money there at the time, I thought the money was there," said Judy Lemons, who helped take over fund-raising efforts under the name Operation Hero Flight. "I thought things had been paid for."
But there would be no plane, no hotel or buses and no trip in May. By September, however, Lemons and others were able to raise over $200,000 and make the trip happen for 132 World War II veterans.
Lemons said on the phone Tuesday that she believes McSweeney was "passionate" about raising money for the veterans. "I had no reason to believe that his passion wasn't there to do the right thing," she said.
When the trip last May was cancelled, McSweeney disappeared, leaving a suicide note to a committee member involved with Unsung Heroes.
"McSweeney reappeared after several days," court documents state. "He met with the Utah Division of Consumer Protection and confessed in a recorded conversation that he had misappropriated approximately $90,000 of the monies he received for the May 2007 trip."Court papers state that McSweeney had used some of the donated funds to pay for personal expenses for him and his family. A phone call to McSweeney seeking comment was not immediately returned Tuesday.
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