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Veteran accused of keeping money solicited for Wounded Warrior Project

koster-(2)WEBA 34-year-old St. Charles County man is accused of keeping for himself funds he claimed he was collecting for the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit group that helps wounded veterans.

Attorney General Chris Koster and St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney Tim Lohmar announced the charges Wednesday morning at the attorney general’s St. Louis office. The suspect, William Harshbarger, is in custody in St. Charles County.

Harshbarger faces seven felony counts in St. Charles County, including stealing, forgery, financial exploitation of the elderly and making misrepresentations in soliciting funds. In St. Louis County, Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch and Koster filed four felony counts against Harshbarger, including stealing by deceit and making misrepresentations in soliciting funds.

“Many good-hearted people gave money to Mr. Harshbarger, believing that they were contributing to a well-established, nationally recognized charity benefiting our nation’s servicemen and women,” Koster said.

Harshbarger is accused of collecting a check for $30 from an elderly person in St. Charles County and altering it, adding a zero and depositing $300 in his own account. That person, Lohmar said, noticed the irregularity and contacted the Wounded Warrior Project, which initiated an investigation of Harshbarger.

Harshbarger is also suspected to have collected money outside Schnucks and Walmart stores, as well as attending a 15-year-old girl’s birthday party at her invitation and collecting donations from guests in lieu of birthday gifts.

Harshbarger is a wounded Iraq veteran, Lohmar said. The extent of his disabilities is unclear, but he had no formal relationship with the Wounded Warrior Project, either as a volunteer or a beneficiary.

“That’s exactly what the Wounded Warrior Project is for,” Lohmar said. “There’s a right way to go about doing it, and there’s a wrong way.”

The St. Charles County charges were filed within the past two weeks, but the attorneys waited to announce them because there was activity pending in the St. Louis County case, Koster said. Those charges were filed this week.

Harshbarger is on probation for two unrelated stealing charges from 2010. He is suspected to have collected more than $6,000 in the Wounded Warrior Project scam over the course of two years.