Sandboxx has a mobile app that helps friends and families send letters to loved ones in basic training. The company’s revenue comes from that app, and founder Sam Meek said he liked that Marines & Mickey helped allow parents see their children graduate from boot camp. So he started giving a portion of his revenue to the foundation.
But after allegations from organizers of the Lance Cpl. Skip Wells Foundation that Marines & Mickey founder John Simpson is a fraud, Meek has stopped those donations.
On July 16, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez attacked two Chattanooga locations in what authorities called a “terrorist-inspired” plot.
Five people died in the shootings: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith and Marines Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, Lance Cpl. Squire “Skip” Wells, Sgt. Carson Holmquist and Staff Sgt. David Wyatt.
“What I would like to see is an audited financial statement,” Meek said.
He also said that he’s met families who have benefited from Marines & Mickey and called it “an incredible service,” but he wants to make sure the foundation is using money appropriately and be assured of the foundation’s legitimacy.
The Lance Cpl. Skip Wells Foundation started after the July 16 Chattanooga shooting, which left Wells and four others dead.
On Tuesday, information continued to come out about this situation. Here’s the latest.
Nooga.com has reached out to the Marine Corps for more information about the allegations, but officials couldn’t immediately be reached Tuesday morning.
Jason Weeks, who co-founded the Wells Foundation with Wells’ mother, Cathy, said Tuesday morning that they created the foundation after overwhelming support and fundraising.
“Cathy refused to take any of the proceeds [for herself],” Weeks said.
So instead, they created the foundation to support junior ROTC and band programs that Wells had been a part of.
Weeks said that Simpson popped up out of nowhere soon after Wells’ funeral-if not at the funeral-and claimed to be a “Force Recon Marine,” which Weeks compared to a Navy SEAL. Essentially, it’s a high ranking, Weeks said.
Weeks said that Simpson also talked about his combat deployments and got Cathy’s trust by capitalizing on the fact that she and her son had gone to Disney shortly before his death.
The two organizations started working together, and Cathy directly gave Simpson $75,000, Weeks said.
“She’s not pleased with herself about that,” Weeks said of Cathy giving Simpson the money directly. “That’s the difficult part about coming forward. She really didn’t want to admit that she’d done something without talking [to someone]. She was embarrassed. But the real problem is this guy preyed on her and it worked.”
In total, Weeks said Simpson has about $140,000 raised for or in the name of the Wells Foundation.
But then, Weeks got a message that someone else suspected Simpson of being a fraud, and he said they soon found out that Simpson’s claims about his military work were inaccurate.
Weeks and Cathy tried to get the money back, then went public with their accusations about Simpson, who denies the allegations.
“The bottom line is he f—— stole $140,000 from a f—— Gold Star Mother, and that is regardless of criminal issues,” Weeks said. “A Gold Star Mother in the United States is to be respected … For him to have taken advantage of her to the level that he did is going to cost him.”
Weeks said he expects a civil judgment against Simpson, as well as investigations from the Internal Revenue Service.
Simpson has posted an official statement here. He claims that Weeks and Wells wanted him to hand over his foundation to them, or otherwise they would ruin him.
“After speaking to authorities, I was told that this is nothing short of blackmail and extortion,” he wrote. “And I will be seeking criminal charges. Also, myself, my foundation and its volunteers have been receiving threats via Facebook, emails and phone calls. Our legal team [is] taking note of all threats, comments and calls, and we will be seeking punitive damages on everyone involved. As far as $135,000 being stolen, that is completely false.”
He said that his organization sent 14 families to Disney after events that had both Marines & Mickey and Wells’ names attached to them.
“In my opinion, a donation made is not stolen when used for the mission plainly stated and publicly known,” Simpson also said.
Simpson is also being accused of stolen valor, which is when someone profits off of saying they had some involvement with the military that they did not.
“As far as stolen valor, I never said I was a Force Recon Marine, never said I had been on one tour to Afghanistan, much less four,” Simpson said in the statement.
Weeks sent Nooga.com a screenshot that appears to be from the Marines & Mickey website, which says the organization was founded by a “retired Marine who was also a Recon Marine.”
Simpson didn’t respond Tuesday to a request for clarification about that.
Nonprofit organization Marine Reconnaissance Foundation has been sharing a photo accusing Simpson of stolen valor on Facebook, where some commenters have shared stories about questionable run-ins with Simpson.