Newtown charity co-founder accused of stealing more than $70,000

By Arturo Garcia
Monday, January 13, 2014 23:05 EDT
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Newtown charity co-founder accused of stealing more than $70,000 [CNN]
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One of the founders of a Tennessee charity is accused of making off with more than $70,000 that was supposed to be used to benefit residents in Newtown, Connecticut.

USA Today reported on Saturday that complaints have been filed against Robbie Bruce, a fitness trainer, with the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Tennessee state attorney general’s office following his apparent disappearance connected to money raised by the charity, the 26.4.26 Foundation. Around $73,000, including money that was supposedly raised for victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, are unaccounted for.

Ryan Graney, another co-founder, told USA Today that the organization did raise $30,000 by holding a 26-mile fundraiser — one for each of the victims of the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary — that was presented to the Newtown Youth Academy in January 2013.

However, she later noticed that $1,200 was taken from the foundation’s Paypal account to pay for a paddle board around the same time that Bruce posted a picture of a paddle board on his truck online. She was subsequently stonewalled when she asked to go over the group’s finances.

“I took down all the websites when I kind of had an inkling of what was going on,” she told CNN. “I removed all of our websites so that there was no way for anyone to collect any more money.”

Graney, who had volunteered to help the mother of one of the victims, Victoria Soto, monitor possible online scams involving her name, also told CNN that she had to inform them about Bruce’s alleged duplicity.

“It’s one of the most special relationships I’ve had in my life,” Graney said. “I had to call her and tell her that a foundation that I helped was using Vicky’s name. It’s incredibly hard.”

The group’s last Facebook post, dated Dec. 20, stated, “Due to the founders transgressions and misconduct we were forced to end all ability for 26.4.26 to collect money. Especially after it was revealed that foundation money was spent on personal items.”

CNN reported that there is no record showing that the foundation filed the paperwork required for groups of its nature in Tennessee.

Watch CNN’s report, as aired on Monday, below.

Arturo Garcia
Arturo Garcia
Arturo R. García is the managing editor at Racialicious.com. He is based in San Diego, California and has written for both print and broadcast media, including contributions to GlobalComment.com, The Root and Comment Is Free. Follow him on Twitter at @ABoyNamedArt
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