Safe from Scams: Man who ran charity to help families of sick children used money for himself

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- US Postal Inspectors said a man who ran a charity to help children dealing with serious illnesses actually diverted money from the program to himself.

"Your kids would qualify for the Hero Program because they are listed as terminally ill children," said Kristie Campbell, fraud victim.

Steven Wetzel was the director of the children's charity called the Hero Program.

"It was a program that was to be for things that insurance would not cover. So gas, transportation, if you needed help with utilities at a certain point," said Campbell.

Campbell and her children attended many fundraisers and worked to help the charity as much as they could.

"One of the things that people looked at was the fact that everything that they spent went directly to the families. All 100-percent of the donations."

The Hero Program raised more than $300,000 to help families in need or so the families thought.

When Campbell was in jeopardy of losing her home, so she asked if the fund could help.

"He said, unfortunately, the organization had no money to give me."

When families began comparing stories, there were a lot of discrepancies.

"He was doing things for other children and the other families, and that was not the case," said Campbell.

Postal inspectors said Wetzel didn't give the money to sick children-- he spent it on himself.

"He remodeled his kitchen, he did landscaping at his own house, he bought thousands of dollars of things at sporting goods' stores for his own personal use," said a Postal Inspector.

Inspectors said the investigation was heartbreaking.

"It was so offensive and so disheartening to the families, that a lot of them cried because their child was used as pawns in these fundraiser's."

The suspect in our report pleaded guilty to mail fraud and tax evasion for stealing more than $90,000.
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