Polk County man accused of running fake charity for veterans

Officials say the man was claiming to be raising money for veterans, but was only benefiting himself.

BARTOW, Fla. – A state attorney announced the arrest of a man accused of raising money for a fake charity advertised as a benefit for veterans.

Christopher Edwards, 49, of Winter Haven ran the fraudulent organization known as “Power to our Vets,” which claimed to help veterans with their power bills by selling solar power to area power companies, according to State Attorney Brian Haas’ office.

Edwards would solicit donations by creating fake social media posts, promotional posters and holding raffles, Haas said. Financial statements reveal donations collected by Edwards were deposited into accounts owned and controlled by him.

Local businesses, including two motorcycle dealers, offered items for him to auction off. Casey McKibben, the general manager of McKibben Powersport in Winter Haven, said his company lost thousands of dollars by offering the charity a bike at a discounted rate.

"There's nothing worse than hurting someone that is out there risking his life to allow us to have this luxury every day," McKibben said.

McKibben also said he helped sell raffle tickets and even donated directly to the charity.

According to the state attorney, Edwards falsely claimed to have business partnerships with several area corporations such as Duke Energy and Tampa Electric. 

Haas’ office alleges Edwards committed the crimes between March 2016 and November 2017. The state attorney’s office found Edwards gave a $46 actually given to a veteran.

"That's the extent of this charity, and that's pretty pathetic," Haas said.

Anyone who believes they might be a victim of Edwards should contact Haas’ office at (863)534-4920.

Edwards is charged with two counts of grand theft worth more than $20,000; two counts of grand theft over $300; three counts of soliciting funds without a license; two counts of soliciting funds for misleading amounts and one count of soliciting funds that fail to apply contributions.

A judge set Edwards' bond at $17,000 at his first appearance Friday afternoon.

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