Sandbox Veterans unwilling to speak publicly

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The Sandbox Veterans collect donations in perhaps the most public way:  panhandling.  But 15 Finds Out discovered leaders with the group are far less willing to publicly outline exactly where the money is going.

The same two volunteers walk up to vehicles at stoplights from medians and near intersections in what many call an aggressive way.  The group says the money goes to help Iraq and Afghanistan vets with PTSD.  City leaders say their tactics are illegal.

15 Finds Out has been emailing back and forth with Roger Locke.  He’s listed as the head of the Sandbox Veterans.  Locke initially didn’t want to do an interview, saying he and an attorney are preparing a civil action suit against the city of Fort Wayne.  They’re said to be seeking $3.2 million for what he calls a violation of his group’s freedom of speech.

After several other emails, Locke said he would do an interview and make his financial records public after the city gets his lawsuit filing.  But John Perlich, a city spokesman, said city attorneys have no record of any such lawsuit.

Because Locke has left many in the community with unanswered questions about the legitimacy of the Sandbox Veterans, 15 Finds Out decided to approach the group with a camera when they were on East Dupont Road.  They hopped in a van and drove off just as the camera started rolling.  So 15 Finds Out followed them to their destination at the intersection of Clinton Street and Lima Road.

The nonprofit organization was less than willing to speak about its efforts.

“Private property you guys can’t be here right now.  Nope, nope, nope, private property,” said Adam Silvani, a volunteer with the Sandbox Veterans.  “No comment.  You guys…no.”

Another man got out of the van and said, “You’ve got about five seconds to get off the property before we have an issue.”

According to Allen County records, 15 Finds Out was standing on city property.

Adam Widener: “I mean we just have a couple questions about your organization.  There are a lot of people who have questions.”

Man driving the van: “You can do that by phone.”

Widener: “Ok, what’s your number.”

Man driving the van:  “It’s online.”

Widener: “People have questions about the organization, if it’s legitimate or not.  If it is legitimate, why wouldn’t you want to say anything about it?”

Silvani: “Do that online.  Have a good day.”

Thursday afternoon, 15 Finds Out tried calling the number on the Sandbox Veterans’ former Facebook page and was hung up on.  Since the encounter with the group, the Sandbox Veterans Facebook page is nowhere to be found.

The Indiana Attorney General’s office wants to hear from folks in Fort Wayne who have concerns with the Sandbox Veterans.  You can file a complaint by calling 1 (800) 382-5516 or electronically on the Attorney General’s website.  A spokeswoman with the Attorney General’s office said your consumer complaints could encourage officials to launch an investigation.

On the other hand, if the Sandbox Veterans have helped you or any veteran you know, 15 Finds Out wants to interview you as part of its investigative series: Patriots or Panhandlers?  Please call the 15 Finds Out hotline at (260) 481-1515 ext. 1610.

The Sandbox Veterans are not recognized as a 501(c)(3) with the IRS.  The group is a nonprofit with the state.  Tune in next week as 15 Finds Out heads to Indianapolis to find out what that nonprofit filing really means.  Meanwhile, we will continue to look into where your donations may or may not be going.

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