A man who claimed to be the founder and CEO of an organization raising money for military veterans was arrested Friday for reportedly scamming supporters out of their money, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office said.
The investigation into Christopher P. Blake, 46, of Ormond Beach, began last week after the sheriff’s office began receiving complaints.
Several calls of concern came from people who saw a Facebook profile photo Blake posted – a selfie with Sheriff Mike Chitwood, according to the sheriff’s office.
“I think once he posted that selfie, within 24 hours is when my phone lit up with people calling me and saying, ‘Hey, let me tell you what this guy did,’” Chitwood said. “And that’s what got him.”
The selfie was taken at a recent community forum Chitwood attended and where Blake was in the audience, the sheriff’s office said. However, neither Chitwood nor the sheriff’s office were affiliated with Blake or his organization.
“In the audience was a wolf,” Chitwood said, “and he was looking for a way that he could line his pockets, and improve his situation – not the situation of the vets that we’re trying to help.”
The sheriff’s office also received a complaint from a local business that provided Blake with signs and banners for what was supposed to be a veterans’ fundraiser, according to the sheriff’s office.
But Blake never paid for the signs.
As a detective started researching the organization, “Second Chance Veterans Foundation,” its Facebook page and its website, it became obvious something was amiss, the sheriff’s office said. The detective found a promotion for a Memorial Day raffle of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle that was allegedly donated by Bruce Rossmeyer’s Harley-Davidson and on display at Ace Café in Orlando.
However, Rossmeyer’s denied ever donating a Harley, and Ace said no Harley was on display for Blake or his organization.
When the detective went to Blake’s office address, he found out he hadn’t paid rent in about six months, according to the sheriff’s office. The landlord was scheduled to meet with Blake at her office that morning, and she let the detective sit in on the meeting – introducing him to Blake as her friend.
The detective spoke with Blake about his fundraising efforts, and Blake showed him videos of events like a fundraiser at DeBary Golf and Country Club, the sheriff’s office said. Blake also told him he could buy a raffle ticket for the Harley.
He also went to DeBary Golf and Country Club and learned that Blake’s $ 6,500 check for his Oct. 28 fundraising event was returned for insufficient funds, according to the sheriff’s office. The manager reported that Blake had about 40 people at the event, each of them paying $ 100 to play golf and eat lunch.
At a Holiday Inn in Orange City, the detective found the hotel gave Blake a $ 100 donation to sponsor his golf tournament, the sheriff’s office said. The manager said Blake asked for four free hotel rooms, but the hotel instead gave him a discounted rate. But the debit card Blake used was declined and his bill of $ 956.30 was never paid.
Another victim was former NFL running back Gerald Riggs, who was a celebrity guest at the golf tournament, according to the sheriff’s office. His $ 2,500 check from Blake was returned for insufficient funds.
Blake was taken to the Volusia County Branch Jail on Friday, where is facing a charge of organized scheme to defraud.
He is being held on a $ 10,000 bond.
Anyone who has donated money to Second Chance Veterans Foundation or has been victimized by Blake’s schemes is asked to contact the sheriff’s office at 386-254-1537.