An Ormond Beach man was arrested and charged with fraud Friday after Volusia County Sheriff’s Office deputies determined he scammed people out of their money through a fraudulent organization that purported to support veterans, according to Sheriff’s Office spokesman Andrew Gant.
Christopher Blake, 46, ran the Second Chance Veterans Foundation, a group that aimed to “tear down the walls, rebuild trust, and empower every Veteran to find their passion, their purpose, and realize their dream,” according to its website.
According to a Sheriff’s Office incident report, the scheme began to unravel after Kevin McLaughlin, owner of Total Image Signs & Graphics, complained to deputies Dec. 18 after he never received payment for signs and banners for an October charity golf tournament at DeBary Golf & Country Club.
“On 10/27/17 McLaughlin contacted Blake by phone and told him the signs were ready for him to pick up upon payment,” the report says. “Blake told McLaughlin he was staying at the Holiday Inn Express, located at 1330 Saxon Blvd., Orange City, and requested McLaughlin drop off the signs and banners there, where he would get paid for his services.”
The report says McLaughlin called Blake after arriving at the hotel, but Blake told him he was at the airport, picking up professional golf players for the event. Blake asked McLaughlin to leave the signs at the hotel, and that he’d contact McLaughlin later to give him payment information, according to the report.
Blake never did, the report says, and several weeks later, McLaughlin made contact with Shawn McGuigan, the manager of DeBary Golf & Country Club.
“McGuigan advised Blake wrote the golf course a check for $ 6500 for booking the golf course on 10/28/17, which was returned for insufficient funds,” the report says. “McGuigan also told McLaughlin he was contacted by Holiday Inn Express in Orange City, after Blake did not pay for several rooms he had reserved with a debit card he used, which was declined.”
A Sheriff’s Office detective began investigating the group. The group’s website showed a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, which was purportedly donated by Bruce Rossmeyer’s Harley-Davidson and was to be raffled off on Memorial Day 2018, with the proceeds going to benefit homeless veterans.
The detective contacted Bruce Rossmeyer’s Harley-Davidson, and learned the company had not donated a motorcycle to Blake or his group, according to the Sheriff’s Office incident report.
Peter Arney, general manager of the Holiday Inn Express in Orange City, also told deputies he had never received payment for rooms he provided at a discounted rate for the golf tournament.
“Arney stated Blake gave them a copy of a debit card as payment after he left, which was declined. The total amount owed to the hotel was $ 956.30,” the report says. “Arney advised he had sent Blake several emails and called him several times to obtain payment. Blake kept making excuses and to this date had not paid. Arney stated he was authorized and wished to pursue criminal charges on behalf of the hotel.”
McLaughlin (of Total Image Signs & Graphics) and McGuigan (of DeBary Golf & Country Club) also told deputies they would like to press charges.
Sheriff’s Office spokesman Gant said another victim of Blake’s scam was former NFL running back Gerald Riggs, who was a celebrity guest at the golf tournament, and whose $ 2,500 check from Blake was returned for insufficient funds.
Blake was transported to the Volusia County Branch Jail on Friday and was being held on $ 10,000 bail.
Gant said anyone who has donated money to Second Chance Veterans Foundation or has been victimized by Blake’s alleged schemes to defraud is asked to contact the Sheriff’s Office at 386-254-1537.
— Anthony DeFeo, email@example.com