'Fallen Heroes' founder jailed for misusing donations

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by JONATHAN BETZ

WFAA

Posted on September 16, 2010 at 10:47 PM

Updated Thursday, Sep 16 at 10:47 PM

NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES

MANSFIELD — It was supposed to be a memorial for American soldiers killed in combat.

Then News 8 started asking questions about the U.S. Fallen Heroes Foundation and the money it was raising.

Now, the man at the center of the scandal is behind bars as his son fights in Afghanistan.

Cheryl Rogers said she gladly donated several hundred dollars to her neighbor, Evan Coleman, to help build a memorial for fallen soldiers.

"My heart really goes out to those families, because any moment I could get a phone call and my son could be one of those," she said.

But soon after Rogers' gift, serious questions were raised about Coleman's organization.

Last month, the Texas attorney general accused Coleman of fraud, saying he fabricated IRS records and spent the donated money on himself.

"I just can't imagine anyone that is sinister enough to do that... I don't know... for money," Rogers said.

Now Coleman, 57, is in jail. Officers arrested him Wednesday night at his Mansfield home and charged him with misappropriating money.

Neighbor Chris Milligan donated $50 to Coleman after he knocked on his door.

"He saw some information on the back of my truck — that my dad was in the Air Force — and so he wanted to see if I wanted to donate some money," Milligan said.

In May, Coleman showed off grand plans for a $50 million Fallen Heroes memorial in Kennedale. But the state says the organization's founder not only lied to donors, but also deceived the city.

When confronted by News 8, Coleman refused to answer questions about the proposed memorial.

The state says his actions constitute a crime, and Coleman now faces jail time along with thousands of dollars in fines.

E-mail jbetz@wfaa.com

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