ORMOND BEACH, Florida- An Ormond Beach Florida man who claimed to be the founder and CEO of an organization raising money for military veterans was arrested Friday by Volusia County sheriff’s detectives who determined he scammed supporters out of their money.
The investigation into 46-year-old Christopher P. Blake (DOB 5/28/1971) began after the Sheriff’s Office began receiving complaints. the sheriff’s office said.
Deputies say several calls of concern came from people who saw a Facebook profile photo Blake posted – a “selfie” with Sheriff Mike Chitwood. As it turned out, that selfie proved to be a major factor prompting a thorough investigation that led to Blake’s arrest.
“I think once he posted that selfie, within 24 hours is when my phone lit up with people calling me and saying: ‘Hey, let me tell you what this guy did,’” Sheriff Chitwood said Friday after Blake was taken to jail. “And that’s what got him.”
Neither Sheriff Chitwood nor the Sheriff’s Office were affiliated with Blake or his organization, but the selfie happened at a recent community forum where Chitwood was in attendance and Blake was in the audience.
“In the audience was a wolf,” Chitwood said, “and he was looking for a way that he could line his pockets, and improve his situation – not the situation of the vets that we’re trying to help.”
The investigation started last week as the Sheriff’s Office also received a complaint from a local business that provided Blake signs and banners for what was pitched as a veterans’ fundraiser. Blake never paid for the signs.
As a detective started researching the organization, “Second Chance Veterans Foundation,” its Facebook page and its website, secondchanceveteransfoundation.org, it became clear something was amiss. Detective Elmazi found a promotion for a Memorial Day raffle of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle that was said to be donated by Bruce Rossmeyer’s Harley-Davidson and on display at Ace Café in Orlando. However, Rossmeyer’s denied ever donating a Harley, and Ace said no Harley was on display for Blake or his organization.
The detective went to Blake’s office address and learned he hadn’t paid rent in about six months. The landlord was scheduled to meet with Blake at her office that morning, and she let the detective sit in on the meeting – introducing him to Blake as her friend. Detective Elmazi talked to Blake about his fundraising efforts, and Blake showed him videos of events like a fundraiser at DeBary Golf and Country Club. Blake also told the detective he could buy a raffle ticket for the Harley.
Detective Elmazi also went to DeBary Golf and Country Club and learned that Blake’s $6,500 check for his Oct. 28 fundraising event was returned for insufficient funds. The manager reported that Blake had about 40 people at the event, each of them paying Blake $100 to play golf and eat lunch.
At a Holiday Inn in Orange City, the detective learned the hotel gave Blake a $100 donation to sponsor his golf tournament. The manager said Blake also asked for four free hotel rooms; the hotel instead gave him a discounted rate. But Blake’s debit card used for payment was ultimately declined, and his bill of $956.30 was never paid.
Another victim was former NFL running back Gerald Riggs, who was a celebrity guest at the golf tournament, and whose $2,500 check from Blake was returned for insufficient funds.
Blake was transported to the Volusia County Branch Jail on Friday and held on $10,000 bail on a charge of organized scheme to defraud.
Anyone who has donated money to Second Chance Veterans Foundation or has been victimized by Blake’s schemes to defraud is asked to contact the Sheriff’s Office at 386-254-1537.