PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Ken Vegely loves to fly, and he has a deep abiding respect for the country’s servicemen and women.
So when he came across a charity raffle for a 1975 Beechcraft Sierra, he saw no downside in taking a chance. After all, it was for a veteran’s organization called Winged Warriors.
“If you didn’t win it was a benefit to veterans. How could you lose? If you lost, somebody else gained,” said Vegely, of North Huntingdon.
As it turned out, Vegely didn’t win, and apparently, neither did anyone else.
The only one who did gain was Jason Wirtzer, the director of Winged Warriors, who claimed he has taught dozens of vets to fly.
KCBS’s David Goldstein: “Can you prove you’ve trained 25 vets? You can’t, can you?”
Wirtzer: “I’d like to.”
Recently, reporter David Goldstein, of our CBS Los Angles-affiliate KCBS, confronted Wirtzer about Winged Warriors claims.
Goldstein: “Are you scamming people here?”
Goldstein: “How many vets have you trained? None, right?”
Wirtzer: “I’ll tell you what I’ll do, I’ll let you talk with my attorney if you want.”
According to court papers, Wirtzer sold 4,500 tickets across the United States, bringing in almost $175,000, but where that money went remains a mystery.
The KCBS investigation found that Wirtzer and Winged Warriors never had possession of a Beechcraft Sierra, and it wasn’t theirs to raffle off. Neither did he produce any evidence of helping to train veterans to fly.
“Not only was I violated, but there’s a lot of other people that probably deserved a lot more than I for the service they gave to our country that was violated,” Vegely said.
Vegely spent $800 on the raffle tickets and just figured he hadn’t won and the money was being spent on giving veteran flying lessons. But when we told him that this was apparently a scam, he was greatly disappointed .
“It gives you an empty feeling. It really breaks your trust in people,” he said.
So, if you want to help our vets, the lesson here is – donor beware. Make sure you research the charity to determine whether they actually have programs that benefit our servicemen and women.