BRADENTON, Florida -- It was advertised as a fundraiser to honor fallen soldiers, but 10 News has learned that there are some major questions about the man who organized the event.
The fundraiser was held on the Fourth of July at the home of 28-year-old Ryan Zull, who lives in St. Charles, Missouri. According to one of the families of the fallen heroes pictured, they didn't even know the event was happening.
For Sheila Cobb of Bradenton, the grief never seems to go away.
Christopher was her only son. When he was 17 years old, he enlisted in the Marine Corp. He died two years later in Iraq during an ambush.
Sheila says, "I'm a mother. I have to suffer through this."
She is devastated over Christopher's picture being posted in the flier with someone else's name underneath it. She says, "Why did he disgrace my son's picture that way?"
"Christopher is not from up [Missouri]. Christopher is from here. We did not give him permission to do this," she adds.
At the top of the flyer is a photo of Lance Corporal Phillip Vinnedge, who was killed in action 20 months ago in Afghanistan during a roadside bombing. His mother, Julie, says she received the flyer in the mail and wanted to learn more about the two Marines pictured under her son's photo.
Vinnedge says, "I could not sleep in the middle of the night, and so I got up and I kept searching this person's name and no matter where I looked I couldn't come up with anything."
But she was persistent and after checking a number of websites, she was able to tie the photo back to Christopher Cobb in Bradenton. She called Sheila, the Marines, and then the St. Charles Police Department, who sent two undercover officers to the fundraiser. Now there's a police investigation into possible fraud.
Vinnedge says, "It makes me so angry. It makes me so frustrated. My son -- when he was 10 years old -- he decided he wanted to go into the military to protect my freedom and there's someone out there that's benefiting from it by getting people to buy him a beer."
Ryan Zull says Cobb's photo was used by accident. He says the fundraiser on July 4th raised around $400 and has already been used to buy three memorial stones.
On Tuesday night, a St. Charles police officer said they're investigating Ryan Zull for fraud, for possibly misrepresenting his own military service. His father, James Zull, helped with the flier and says, "We're totally sorry. This was a complete accident. We just wanted to honor these boys."
James Zull also says this is the second year for the fundraiser. He says Julie Vinnedge was at the first charity event, where she was presented with an embroidered American Flag in honor of her son Phillip.