Estero man sentenced to 4 years for defrauding military families

A local man who conned military families across the country, including a victim of a terrorist attack, will serve time in federal prison.

A judge sentenced John Shannon Simpson, 43, to four years behind bars for wire fraud and ordered him to pay more than $141,000 in restitution. Simpson is also serving nine years in a Florida prison for unrelated charges.

Simpson took a plea deal back in March, confessing to using his organization “Marines and Mickey” to steal from military families.

Simpson moved to Estero in 2014 and started his charity. But it wasn’t until after a terrorist attack at an armed forces recruiting station in Tennesse that FBI and Navy personnel investigated where money for Simpson’s charity was coming from.

In 2015, gunfire erupted at a recruiting station in Chattanooga, killing four marines and one member of the Navy. One of those victims was young marine Skip Wells from Marietta, Georgia.

It was a tragedy for all concerned, but that didn’t stop Simpson from moving in and defrauding Wells’ mother. Simpson promised to get other Marines to Disney World, a favorite place for Cathy and her son. Cathy donated to the charity.

“He was very personable,” said Andy Kingery, a close friend of the Wells family. “He was intent on his project, which had been set up before this event. He moved in on her because of opportunity. He knew what he was talking about. He knew the right things to say, and he caught us at a bad moment.”

Kingery said about two months after donating to Simpson’s charity, they knew something was wrong and reported him. That’s when the FBI and the Navy took down the scam.

Among other victims of Simpson’s schemes was NFL quarterback Peyton Manning.

Kingery said Wells’ family is glad Simpson will serve time and pay up.

“She was able to look him in the face, and I think that gave her great satisfaction,” Kingery said. “Reminding him she did not go away. She was not a silent victim.”

RELATED: Simpson sentenced in South Carolina 

Reporter:Rich Kolko
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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