ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - A 41-year-old St. Louis County man admitted to lying about past military service and to conducting a phony raffle intended to help wounded veterans, the U.S. Attorney's Office said Wednesday.
According to court documents, Matthew Buckingham posted an ad on Craigslist in January 2013 claiming he was involved in a charity called Veterans Aid From All Foreign Wars and solicited help from individuals to help him promote charitable events and sell raffle tickets to aid war veterans.
Buckingham's Craigslist ad said he'd planned to hold a raffle on July 4. Tickets would be $5 each and the prize money would be divided as follows: $3,000 for first prize, $2,000 for second prize and $1,000 for third prize.
A number of people responded to Buckingham's ads and he arranged to meet these people at restaurants and bars in the St. Louis area. After introducing himself as "Tyler Matthews," Buckingham showed the people a binder with various documents claiming he was affiliated with the military and other paperwork that appeared to legitimize his charitable activities.
While talking with these people, Buckingham said he served in Afghanistan and Iraq, that he was a Marine and had been injured in the war, and that he later worked as a military officer and sniper. After returning home, Buckingham said he worked in the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Coast Guard, and that he presently worked in an "undercover" capacity in north St. Louis infiltrating gangs and combating crime.
Prosecutors said Buckingham promised these people $10 an hour if they helped sell raffle tickets. He ultimately recruited five to 10 people to help him sell tickets at bars and restaurants in the St. Louis area. These volunteers were paid and then given additional money to cover other expenses. No money remained for the raffle after covering those costs.
Ultimately, Buckingham did not hold a raffle on July 4 and no money was ever distributed to wounded or homeless soldiers, veterans or other military personnel.
Matthew Buckingham pleaded guilty to impersonating a federal agent. He faces up to three years in prison and/or fines totaling $250,000 when he's sentenced November 25.