NEWTOWN, Conn. -- A Tennessee man has pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud stemming from a scheme to defraud contributors to an organization he created following the Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown in 2012.
He pleaded guilty Thursday before U.S. District Judge Alvin W. Thompson in Hartford, according to U.S. attorney for Connecticut Deirdre M. Daly and Patricia M. Ferrick, special agent in charge of the New Haven Division of the FBI.
According to court documents and statements made in court, Robert Terry Bruce, 35, of Nashville, founded the 26.4.26 Foundation, an organization that began soliciting charitable donations in the aftermath of the school shootings in Sandy Hook, for a variety of purposes, including “to help raise funds for increased school safety, families of victims, memorials to teacher heroes, awareness and prevention in schools across America.”
Evidence also shows that in early 2013, Bruce solicited and received contributions to 26.4.26 in connection with a charity athletic event in Gilford, N.H., called the Schools 4 Schools run. Bruce promoted the event via social media and solicited contributions through an online PayPal account by representing to potential donors that the purpose of 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.” He also told contributors that “all proceeds will go to the 26.4.26 Foundation.”
Also in early 2013, Bruce solicited contributions in connection with a charity athletic event in Tennessee called CrossFit Cares.
Instead of using the funds raised to support the charity, Bruce used most of the money to enrich himself and to support his personal training business. Several of the victim donors are from Connecticut, Daly said.
When sentenced on Aug. 30, Bruce faces a maximum of 20 years in prison. He is currently free on $20,000 bond, following his arrest in February 2015.
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