A 52-year-old Kenai man and his organization have been indicted for allegedly pocketing donations meant for deployed soldiers, according to an Alaska Office of Special Prosecutions press release.
Charges against Frank Roach include scheme to defraud, first-degree theft and seven counts of second-degree theft.
Roach started “Alaska Veterans Outreach Boxes for Heroes” in April 2010. The organization claimed it was raising money to send care packages to deployed soldiers. Donations were received at retail stores from Wasilla to Homer and from telephone solicitations, according to the press release.
Arraignment is set for May 8 at the Kenai Courthouse.
Roach is a Navy veteran and former director of fundraising for the Alaska Veterans Foundation, which supported “Boxes for Heroes.” The packages were supposed to be dispersed to Alaska troops stationed away from home during the holiday season.
KPD Investigator Jeff Whannell led the investigation of Roach and his organization. Whannell and his colleagues interviewed dozens of donors and reviewed thousands of pages of financial documents. The Internal Revenue Service was consulted, but the organization was not audited. The investigation was conducted largely by Kenai officers, said Assistant Attorney General Clint Campion.
The investigation revealed “Boxes for Heroes” raised more than $140,000 in donations from April 2010 to October 2011. Roach, the president of the organization, allegedly used the money as his sole source of income and to pay for all his living expenses.
Employees were paid for providing services to the organization, such as managing stands in front of grocery stores. Roach used the remaining money, Campion said.
The organization’s website, boxesforheroes.com, has been shut down.
Roach faces a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000 for scheme to defraud and first-degree theft. The organization faces a fine of $2.5 million.
There currently are no other individuals charged. Investigators are continuing to look into how the organization was operated, Campion said.
Packages were provided directly to The National Guard, which then sent them out to soldiers. Roach and his organization collected donations for shipping costs. However, it did not send out packages, Campion said.
“It’s possible (that Roach sent out some packages), but highly unlikely,” he said.
The packages contained food items, like dehydrated noodles, trail mix and granola bars, as well as toiletries, like lip balm, eyedrops and cotton swabs.
During a 2009 interview, Roach said he got the idea for the program in 2006 after sending his nephew, Sgt. David Kuzmar, who was serving in Iraq at the time, a box of bathroom supplies and other goodies. After receiving the package, Kuzmar wrote his uncle back not only thanking him for the package, but also saying his fellow troops would appreciate similar gift bags. And the organization was formed.
Peninsula residents will remember a stand in front of Three Bears in Kenai, asking customers to donate whatever items they could.
In October 2011, the Kenai Police Department received a complaint from Chris Hinchman, an employee of Roach’s, who believed the organization was falsely professing its intentions. The employee said he believed the majority of donations were not being used for shipping costs, as the organization purported, but instead were lining the pockets of people involved, according to the press release.
Hinchman said he wanted to ensure the items his family collected would reach soldiers in need. After three requested board meetings were cancelled, Hinchman decided to meet his boss in-person, hoping to address his concerns.
Instead of meeting with Hinchman, Roach left the employee a proposal at the front desk of a hotel, Hinchman said.
“I opened an envelope and read the proposal,” Hinchman said. “It looked like a bribe to me, so I took it down to the police.”
The hand-written proposal is broken into sections. Hinchman’s duties briefly are listed before the document outlines starting salary, as well as possible bonuses and commission on booths.
“If booths collect over $1,400 in a week Chris will receive $150.00 bonus on top of his ... weekly salary,” says the proposal, under Bonus on Events. Another section says donation boxes at various locations around the state were a “50/50 split with foundation.”
During his minor offense trial in April 2011, Kenai police officer Todd Hamilton testified that in late February the police department received three or four complaints about an aggressive moose near Broad Street; at one point Hamilton even had to go and pepper spray the moose. Hamilton spoke to people living in the neighborhood and discovered that Roach was notorious for feeding a moose out of his window. When confronted, Roach admitted it, and Hamilton issued the citation.
Roach said, at the time, it will take years of litigation before he forks over the $310 the court has ordered him to pay.
Hinchman, Roach’s former employee, said he hopes people continue to support the military. His father was a retired Marine; his grandfather was retired Navy, he said.
“I firmly believe in our military,” he said. “Unfortunately, I don’t think that was going on.”