Friday, May 24, 2013
Wounded Vet Fundraiser Caleb Pritt Accused of Pocketing Donations
Several thousands of dollars were raised but the charity never saw a cent of that money.
Anchorage police are investigating a man who claimed to be raising money for a veteran’s charity. Caleb Pritt claimed the funds were going to help Diane Benson’s son, Latseen, who lost both legs in Iraq. Pritt is a former campaign manager for Diane Benson who last year was the Democratic nominee for lt. governor of Alaska.
The charity called “A Home For Our Vets” builds specially adapted homes for disabled vets and is in the process of completing one for Latseen Benson in Colorado.
Diane Benson says she was thrilled when she heard Pritt was willing to do a fundraiser for the veteran’s charity.
“He said a ‘Homes For Our Troops’ fundraiser would be great if I wanted to do it,” says Benson. “And I said that would be wonderful. He said he would take care of everything and I thought ‘great!’”
True to his word, Pritt held the fundraiser in mid-August at Mad Myrna’s. By all accounts they raised over $3000 but the charity says they never saw a cent.
Amber Sawyer is a friend who helped handle the money at the fundraiser.
“Really the only part that Caleb had any control over was who the checks were made out to,” says Sawyer. “Caleb had us tell people to make them out to him instead of the organization.”
Sawyer says the explanation was so that Caleb could combine all the funds and present one big check to the charity but again, the charity says they saw no money at all.
Sawyer says she’s sure now that Pritt took it himself.
That theory is backed up by journalist Linda Kellen Biegel who knows both Pritt and Benson. Biegel says Benson asked her to investigate when Pritt refused to answer questions about where the money had gone.
Biegel says she asked Pritt if he had sent the checks to the charity and he insisted that he had. Since then she’s discovered that he actually cashed the checks himself at a local bank and left the state.
Now everyone involved in the fundraiser feels cheated especially Benson.
“It’s bad enough to have it happen at all,” says Benson. “But to have it happen with someone you thought you knew and to have it happen where they are using your child’s injuries to bait people to contribute is beyond the slap in the face.”