Skip Wells Foundation cuts ties with 'Marines and Mickey' over stolen valor claims
Skip Wells' girlfriend, Caroline Dove, holds his photo. (AP photo by Russ Bynum)
On February 26 the Lance Corporal Skip Wells Foundation announced that it was disassociating from "any and all relationships with the Marines & Mickey Foundation" alleging organization's founder, John Simpson, was misrepresenting his rank in the Marine Corps and misappropriating his charity's funds.
The Lance Corporal Skip Wells Foundation was created to honor Skip Wells - one of the four Marines killed in the Chattanooga shooting tragedy. It donates to organizations in and around the area Skip had grown up. The foundation also gave over $135,000 to Marines & Mickey - an organization that sends Marines and their families to Disney World. Skip's mom Cathy, who heads the foundation had partnered with the charity because she and her son had always taken yearly vacations to the resort. She wanted other Marine families to have that experience as well.
But now, they feel their donations were given under false pretenses, and want the funds returned.
A post on Lance Corporal Skip Wells Foundation's Facebook said John Simpson claims to be a Former Recon Marine, Drill Instructor and Msgt., but they no longer believe this to be true. The post states he was discharged from the Marine Corps due to bad conduct - and was an E1 admin clerk. The post goes on to say 'there will be federal charges for stolen valor, 501c3 tax fraud, and many other criminal charges the authorities at the federal level are currently investigating."
A letter from John Simpson was posted on the Marines & Mickey website homepage that countered the accusations of the Wells Foundation, claiming he too had spoken to authorities, and that he was advised that the actions against him amount to blackmail and extortion.
"We did several events that had Marines and Mickeys name and Skip Wells' name attached to it, these funds raised sent 14 families to Disney since October 2015. In my opinion, a donation made is not stolen when used for the mission plainly stated and publicly known. Our Mission had existed for over a year and a half prior to the tragedy in Chattanooga. and that is why, Representatives, Representing Ms Wells called my Foundation the night of the tragedy… telling us, they wanted to send all monies expected to be donated to her over the coming weeks to be instead given on to Marines and Mickey for the purpose of Sending Marines to Disney."
After that letter was published, Skip Wells Foundation page posted the following:
We had to act immediately to protect Cathy and the Foundation from further loss. What you personally do with the information we provided is up to you. He is telling people that we are attempting to take over his foundation and harm his reputation. We can assure you that our one and only priority is to protect Cathy and recover over 135k in fraudulent donations to Marines and Mickey and him personally….
As far as Stolen Valor, I never said I was a Force Recon Marine, never said I had been on one tour to Afghanistan, much less four.
Many are following these developments and are posting own findings: James Hill found a cached copy of the site's "About Us" page and posted a screenshot of it in the comments. The photo shows there was a section on the page titled, "How We Came About" and it reads: "Marines & Mickey began in May 2014, Founded by John Simpson, a Retired Marine, who was a Recon Marine and also a Parris Island Drill Instructor…."
The current version of that page no longer contains this section.
Cait Nestor posted a photo of Parris Island's Off-Limits Establishments list which includes Marines & Mickey.
The Wells Foundation is in the process of obtaining an official copy of Simpson's DD-214 using the Freedom of Information Act. Ms. Wells told WSB-TV2 if the funds are recovered, she will put them back into her foundation.