Search for 26.4.26 founder growing - WKRN News 2

Search for 26.4.26 founder grows after Newtown money allegations

Posted: Updated: Jan 15, 2014 5:32 PM
26.4.26 Foundation founder Robbie Bruce has been unreachable. 26.4.26 Foundation founder Robbie Bruce has been unreachable.

Calls for Robbie Bruce to turn himself in continue to grow as questions linger about how he spent money he raised through his 26.4.26 Foundation.

On Facebook and Twitter people are posting pictures of Bruce and asking people who know where he is to call the FBI or the Tennessee Attorney General's Office.

Ryan Graney, a former board member for the foundation, filed a formal non-profit complaint with the Tennessee attorney general's office in June after she said she found questionable purchases made by Bruce.

Graney pointed to a $1,200 purchase of a paddle board, she said was for Bruce's personal use. She also highlighted a $3,200 purchase to X3 Endurance.

News 2 was able to verify through an invoice obtained from X3 Endurance that the purchase was for t-shirts created for a 26.4.26 run in Gilford, New Hampshire. News 2 verified with volunteers in Gilford that the t-shirts were delivered.

Graney said she shut down the foundation's Web site when she uncovered the questionable purchases and Bruce would not allow access to the bank accounts.

Graney told News 2 that telling the family of Vicki Soto about the money questions was the toughest thing she had to do.

Soto was a first grade teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary. She was killed as she shielded her students from a gunman who opened fire inside the school, in December 2012.

Soto's family got to know Bruce when he came to Newtown to donate $30,000 the organization collected during a run in Nashville following the shooting.

"Robbie has been to my house and he has been to my sister's memorial room and he has been to my sister's grave," Jillian Soto, Vicki's sister, said by phone. "When I originally found out money was missing and Robbie may have taken it I was shocked."

"I had to call her and tell her that a foundation that I helped was using Vicki's name and it was incredibly hard," Graney said. "That's what really hurts for me is that I am really close to these people and they don't deserve this."

Bruce has been unreachable for several days.

He has not responded to repeated phone calls and when News 2 went to his apartment Wednesday, an apartment manager said that Bruce had not been home in several days. She also said it appears Bruce moved out of the apartment.

Along with the Tennessee attorney general's office, the Connecticut attorney general is also investigating the 26.4.26 Foundation. George Jepsen sent a letter to Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper offering Connecticut's help and asking for assistance locating Bruce.

The FBI is also attempting to contact Bruce.

Soto said her family has also tried to email and call Bruce to get answers, but he has not responded.

"If not to all the families, at least to my family, we want an explanation of why he thought it was ok to steal from 26 people who lost their lives," she said. "I hope if they do find him and he is found guilty of this that he owns up to it."

Graney told News 2 that she was scheduled to meet with Tennessee authorities Wednesday. She also said Connecticut officials had contacted her as well as part of their investigation.

Connecticut's attorney general said Bruce could face fraud charges in Connecticut because the first $30,000 donation from the organization was made in Newtown, Connecticut.

The United States Senate is getting involved in the ongoing investigation surrounding the 26.4.26 Foundation. 

Connecticut Senator Christopher Murphy has asked the IRS commissioner to launch an investigation into the former organization that raised money for the victims of the Newtown tragedy.

The IRS confirms they received the request for an investigation, but would not comment specifically on the case because of tax payer privacy regulations.

News 2 was the first to uncover a Tennessee attorney general investigation into the organization sparked by a complaint alleging that only $30,000 of $103,000 raised went to the intended recipients.

"I am outraged at reports that the remaining donations never reached the Newtown community, and that it appears likely that one of the other co-founders of this charity has misappropriated or stolen the remaining donations and is now unreachable," Senator Murphy wrote to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

Tennessee Senator Bob Corker's office said he was aware of the situation and he expects the proper authorities to fully investigate the allegations.

If you have information about Bruce's whereabouts call the Tennessee Attorney General's Office at 615-741-3491.

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