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Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 6/30/16. John C. Simpson, father of John Shannon Simpson, speaks about his son while in the doorway of John C.'s Anderson, S.C., residence. former brother in law of Jeff Simpson, and Simpson's 18-year-old nephew Blake Stutler, speak about Simpson's youth. John Simpson the founder of Marines & Mickey is under federal investigation for stolen valor and is accused of misappropriating funds by the leaders of the Lance Corporal Skip Wells Foundation.

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A question of honor: Marines and Mickey target of federal investigation

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Marines & Mickey 990

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Simpson lawsuit

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A spokesman for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service said the agency is still gathering information on Marines & Mickey, a charity accused of defrauding the mother of a July 16 victim.

John Simpson, the charity's president, partnered with Cathy Wells days after the mass shooting in Chattanooga that killed five military servicemen, including Wells' son. Skip Wells was a lance corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps.

John Simpson has since been accused of misappropriating his charity's funds, taking more money than authorized from Marines who donated through direct deposit and Stolen Valor, a federal crime in which someone benefits from a lie about their military record.

A website for the charity said that John Simpson was a former Reconnaissance Marine and drill instructor at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island -- both prestigious positions. Multiple parents of Marines have said Simpson also made these claims to them.

But according to the USMC Manpower and Reserve Affairs Department, Simpson actually served for 4 years and was discharged as a private after a court martial. He left the military in August 1997, two months after police in South Carolina arrested him for driving with a suspended license. In that arrest report, a deputy wrote that the Armed Forces had been looking for Simpson.

After learning in February that Simpson's military record was in question, Cathy Wells split from his charity. Her friends say that Cathy Wells helped Simpson raise $160,000 through fundraisers, a $25,000 donation from the Chattanooga Heroes Fund and a personal $75,000 loan.

Simpson told the Times Free Press earlier this week that he could not discuss his military record. He also said friends of Cathy Wells have tried to disparage him because they wanted control of his successful charity.

Since February, some parents of Marines have accused Simpson of misappropriating the money raised for the charity. They also accused members of his charity of taking more money out of donors' accounts than the donor promised, using direct deposit. Some of those donors were Marines.

Simpson said he never defrauded anyone in the charity. He added that he gave thousands of dollars out of his account for the charity's cause.

A 990 for Marines & Mickey shows that no money went toward staff salaries. In a divorce filing earlier this year, however, Simpson wrote that he earned $3,800 per month as the charity's president.

Simpson said he has not solicited donations for months. But multiple mothers of Marines say Marines & Mickey to withdraw money from their sons' accounts through direct deposit since June 1.

Ed Buice, a public affairs officer for the NCIS, says his agency is still looking into claims against Simpson.

"We're also still searching for additional victims," he said, "or reports from anyone with concerns about recent suspicious credit card charges."

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