PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla.- Charlotte County Sheriff's Economic Crimes Unit detectives arrested a North Port woman for defrauding a Port Charlotte church saying her four sons were killed in the Middle East wars. Shirley Ann Duncan, 49, of 2124 Briant Street, was arrested for Scheme to Defraud and Criminal Use of Personal Identification Information.
CCSO received a call Oct. 26 from Duncan’s son who is in the U.S. Army at Fort Knox, Kentucky saying his mother used his identity to defraud the Community Life Center Church out of money by claiming he had been killed in the war. Nicanol “Nick” Collazo said his mother had been collecting money and other benefits from the church claiming he was killed in the Iraq/Afghanistan in 2010. He said she went as far as having a memorial service at the church, not only to honor his death, but the death of his three brothers serving in the Army that also had been killed in the Middle East. Collazo told detectives he only has one brother and he has never served in the military.
ECU detectives learned that Duncan obtained photos of her son in his uniform off his Facebook page and presented it to the church to perpetrate the fraud. Duncan began telling church members Sep. 23 that her three sons were killed in action and her fourth son was not expected to live and later said died Oct. 23. Duncan collected more than $1,000 including donated housewares, clothing and furniture as a result of the deception.
Detectives said the church asked Duncan for documentation on the deaths and she presented a fraudulent letter supposedly from the Secretary of War informing her that her son was killed Aug. 13, 2010. The phony letter was signed by Adjutant General J.A. Ulio. Detectives researched and found that the General died over 50 years ago.
Duncan was asked to provide photos of her four dead soldiers for a special memorial service on Oct. 23, 2012 at the church for her alleged fourth son that died. Duncan provided only Collazo’s photo and three other random photos of soldiers from the internet.
The church later discovered Duncan had been deceiving them and church members reached out to Duncan and told her they knew what was going on but would not condemn her. They also asked Duncan to come back to church but she refused and never returned.
ECU detectives met Jan. 18 with the church pastor, Mark Coffey, who advised he would cooperate with the investigation but would not prosecute her under fraudulent pretenses. On Jan. 24, detectives met with Duncan who admitted to telling the church group she had four sons killed in the war, collected money offered by the church, presented the bogus death notification letter, but, denied any wrong doing. Duncan was arrested and transported to the Charlotte County Jail where she remains on $5,000 bond.