Politics & Government

Federal investigation of charity’s founder continues

John Simpson, left, an Anderson native who founded a charity called Marines & Mickey, shakes hands with Marine Sgt. Julio Orango.
John Simpson, left, an Anderson native who founded a charity called Marines & Mickey, shakes hands with Marine Sgt. Julio Orango. Independent Mail

Two federal agencies are still investigating John Simpson, a former Anderson resident who founded a charity called Marines & Mickey.

A joint probe being conducted by the FBI and Naval Criminal Investigative Service “remains open and ongoing,” NCIS spokesman Ed Buice said in an email last week.

Investigators have spent several months looking into complaints about the financial practices of Marines & Mickey, which Simpson formed in 2014, a year after he moved from Anderson to Estero, Fla. The charity was created to send Marines and their families to Disney theme parks and to pay for families of Marines to attend boot camp graduations.

Simpson also has been accused of falsifying the details of his military career.

Efforts to contact Simpson were unsuccessful. The phone number for his Florida business, Semper Fi Security Systems, is no longer in service.

In an earlier interview with the Independent Mail, Simpson repeated past claims posted on his charity’s website that he served in a Marines reconnaissance battalion and was a Parris Island drill instructor.

Simpson, who grew up in Belton, joined the Marines in July 1994, according to a Marines Manpower & Reserves Affairs spokeswoman. She said Simpson served as a finance technician before he was demoted to the rank of private and involuntarily discharged after a special court martial in August 1997.

The court martial came two months after Simpson was arrested in Oconee County while absent without leave. He received a one-year suspended sentence after pleading guilty to unlawfully carrying a handgun.

After leaving the Marines, Simpson ran a burglar alarm business in Anderson. Numerous customers complained about the business and state officials suspended its license in 2012.

Simpson was thrust into the spotlight last March when the Lance Cpl. Skip Wells Foundation severed its ties with Marines & Mickey. Wells, a 21-year-old Marine, was one of the five serviceman fatally shot in July 2015 in Chattanooga, Tenn., by Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez in what the FBI called a crime “motivated by foreign terrorist organization propaganda.”

Simpson misrepresented his military background when he approached Cathy Wells at her son’s funeral in Marietta, Ga., according to Jason Weeks. Weeks is a former Marine who joined Cathy Wells in creating the nonprofit named after her son.

Marines & Mickey received $40,000 through joint fundraising efforts with the Lance Cpl. Skip Wells Foundation, as well as another $25,000 at the request of Cathy Wells from a fund that former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning created after the Chattanooga shootings, said Jason Weeks. Weeks is a former Marine who joined Cathy Wells in creating the nonprofit named after her son.

Simpson also borrowed $75,000 from Cathy Wells, Weeks said.

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