Man arrested for defrauding donors via a fake Sandy Hook charity

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NASHVILLE, Tenn.–A federal grand jury in New Haven has decided to charge a Tennessee resident with creating a charity in honor of the Sandy Hook tragedy, and then using the funds for himself.

Robert Terry Bruce, 34, of Nashville, Tennessee, was indicted on February 4 with six  counts of wire fraud, and he was arrested on Friday, February 13 in Tennessee.

“This arrest serves as a warning to anyone who attempts to profit from the tragedy at Sandy Hook,” stated U.S. Attorney Deirdre Daly.  “With the assistance of the FBI, we will continue to prioritize the investigation of fraudulent schemes that exploit the generosity of donors responding to this tragedy.”

Bruce founded 26.4.26 after the Sandy Hook tragedy on December 14, 2012, and started soliciting charitable donations in early 2013.

In 2013 Bruce advertised two charity athletic events, for which he said all funds would go to the 26.4.26 Foundation, through social media.

The first event was the Schools 4 Schools run in Guilford, New Hampshire. Bruce used his foundation to get donations through a PayPal account, telling donors that the event was “to help raise funds for increased school safety, families of victims, memorials to teacher heroes, awareness and prevention in schools across America.”

The second event was called CrossFit Cares and took place in Tennessee. He again asked for donations through a PayPal account, saying all proceeds would “provide funding for the families of victims, memorials for teacher heroes and to increase safety in schools across the country.”

According to the indictment, six victims donated a total of $167 to the charity in 2013.

Unfortunately, the funds donated to the 26.4.26 Foundation were never used to support the charity’s mission of helping the victims’ families and raising awareness for safety in schools. Instead, according to the indictment, Bruce used the funds to make himself richer and to support his personal training business.

Each of the counts of wire fraud that he was charged with carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Bruce appeared in federal court in Nashville and was able to post a $20,000 bond. He is due in federal court in Hartford on February 23. Some of the donors he defrauded live in Connecticut.

“Creating a fraudulent charity to exploit a tragedy for personal gain is unconscionable,” stated Kevin Kline, the FBI acting special agent in charge of the New Haven division of the FBI.