PONTIAC (WWJ/AP) – An Oakland County man who authorities say collected money for fake veterans’ charities he created has been sentenced to 17 months to 10 years in prison.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said 37-year-old Neil Thrasher of West Bloomfield Township has also been ordered to pay $74,400 in restitution to Paralyzed Veterans of America and Disabled American Veterans.

Thrasher was sentenced Nov. 7. He pleaded no contest on Oct. 3 in Oakland County Circuit Court to two counts of embezzlement from a charitable organization and one count of violation of the Charitable Solicitation Act.

Schuette said Thrasher — claiming to help disabled veterans — collected more than $180,000 from 2009 to April 2012 through telemarketing from unsuspecting donors and later used a substantial portion of the money as if it were his personal funds. Schuette said much of the money was used at athletic clubs, liquor stores and restaurants.

Prosecutors say Thrasher created two fake charities: The Paralyzed American Veterans and Disabled Veterans of America — which are strikingly similar to two longstanding national organizations that have assisted veterans for years: Paralyzed Veterans of America and Disabled American Veterans.

“Creating phony charities to line your pockets violates state law and abuses the public trust.” said Schuette. “Michigan citizens deserve to know that money they give to veterans organizations actually goes to help veterans.”

To assist individuals in making wise decisions regarding which charitable organizations to support, Schuette established an online searchable database for charities, accessible at www.michigan.gov/agcharitysearch. Through this database, users now can see how much of a charity’s money is actually used for charitable purposes.

TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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