JOPLIN, MO. Prosecutors have charged a man with placing fake donation boxes for the Special Olympics at two southwest Missouri retailers and are investigating the possibility that he placed as many as 200 similar boxes at locations in three states.
Robert L. Winters, 63, was charged with two felony counts of unlawful merchandising in Jasper County Circuit Court after allegedly placing donation boxes topped with suckers at Joplin retailers and then pocketing the cash.
Atty. Gen. Jay Nixon said authorities were looking into whether Winters and two uncharged acquaintances may have also placed fake donation boxes in other parts of southwest Missouri, northeast Oklahoma and southeast Kansas.
Special Olympics does not raise money through retail donation boxes, said Mark Musso, president and chief executive officer of Special Olympics Missouri, which organizes athletic training and competitions for the mentally disabled.
Musso said a Special Olympics volunteer in Pittsburg, Kan., alerted him that there may be some fake collection boxes in Joplin, where the organization was hosting its annual bowling competition this past weekend. Musso then notified Nixon's office, which brought in the help of local authorities.