Local law enforcement officials are warning the public about a phone solicitation scam involving a person or persons trying to collect money on behalf of the Midwest Veterans Association Inc.
The association is a registered nonprofit organization. It formed to raise awareness and money to help get homeless veterans off the street.
Susan Gutterridge, the group's president and executive director, believes that the person behind the scam heard of the group because of its recent and ongoing fundraisers.
In early August, the association sponsored the third annual Thunder Ride event to benefit the Homeless Veterans Assistance Fund of East Central Illinois and West Central Indiana, monitored by the Veterans Affairs Illiana Healthcare System's Homeless Veterans Program. The money is used to house homeless vets by paying their security deposit, first month's rent and/or back utility bills.
The group currently is partnering with Carmack Car Capitol in Danville to raise funds and volunteer labor to fully restore a 1954 Chevrolet 3100 truck. The "Homeward Bound patriot truck" will be raffled off at the association's Thunder Ride event in August 2014 with all of the proceeds going to the homeless veterans assistance fund.
However, the group does not do any telemarketing, Gutterridge insisted. Instead it raises money through events and community partnerships.
She learned of the scam when a friend, who lives in Champaign County, told her about a call she received to her home. The friend said a man named Tony claimed to be soliciting donations on behalf of the veterans association.
"I'm appalled," said Gutterridge, who filed a report with the Vermilion County sheriff's office on Thursday.
"It disgusts me that someone would go so low to scam off the back of our military," she continued. "I can just hear some older person saying, 'I had a brother in World War II. I want to help.' I just don't want anyone thinking they're helping get a veteran off the street, when they're not."
The association's validity can be verified through the VA Illiana Healthcare System. Rachael Dietkus Miller is the center's homeless veterans program coordinator.
Its official address is P.O. Box 238, Bismarck, IL 61814.
If anyone receives a call from someone claiming to be with the Midwest Veterans Association Inc., law enforcement officials urge them to get a phone number of the individual or record it from their Caller ID and call their local police department immediately.