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A Florida woman has been arrested for defrauding a church of benefits by claiming her four sons died while serving in the War on Terror. In reality, the woman has two sons, only one of whom is a soldier.
The Charlotte County Sheriff's Office arrested Shirley Ann Duncan on Jan. 24 for scheming to defraud and criminal use of personal identification information.
According to a sheriff's office release, Fort Knox, Ky., soldier Nicanol "Nick" Collazo contacted the office Oct. 26, 2012, claiming his mother had used his identity and fictional death to collect money and other benefits from Community Life Center Church in Port Charlotte, Fla.
Investigators learned that Duncan told members of the church that she had lost three sons to combat in the Middle East and that a fourth was injured and not expected to live.
Collazo told detectives that he in fact has only one brother, who has never served in the military.
When church members asked Duncan for documentation of her sons' deaths, she provided a phony letter from the Secretary of War, signed by Adjutant Gen. J.A. Ulio.
The War Department has not existed since 1947, when it was replaced by the Defense Department. Additionally, investigators found that Ulio passed away in 1958.
Duncan claimed that her fourth son died Oct. 23, the same day the church held a special memorial service for all four sons. When church members asked Duncan to provide photos of her sons for the service, she gave a photo of Collazo in uniform that she had taken from his Facebook page along with photos of three unidentified soldiers taken from the Internet.
Duncan collected more than $1,000 in donated clothes, housewares and furniture before her son turned her in.
Following a meeting with the church's pastor to confirm the story, detectives met with Duncan on Jan. 24. She admitted to telling the church group that her four sons had died at war, as well as collecting money and using a false death notification letter.
However, according to authorities, she denied any wrongdoing in the case. She is being held in Charlotte County Jail on a $5,000 bond.
"It really sickens me when someone pulls at the heartstrings of people who want to help, and yet take advantage of them and our military men and women by profiting from her actions," Sheriff Bill Prummell said.
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