ROGERSVILLE — The Hawkins County Sheriff’s Department is looking for a man who allegedly solicited donations in and around the Surgoinsville area last week “to keep a child alive” — when in actuality there was no sick grandchild.
There are currently two theft under $500 misdemeanor arrest warrants issued for John David Bundren, 29, 120 Shiloh Church Road, Rogersville. The warrants were issued Friday, but as of Sunday evening Bundren was still at large.
Sheriff Roger Christian said Sunday he anticipates that more people will come forward after news of Bundren’s alleged scam reaches the community, possibly resulting in additional charges.
So far two alleged victims have filed a complaint against Bundren, both of whom allegedly gave him an unspecified contribution before finding out he had no ill grandchild.
Bundren is accused of soliciting donations in the Surgoinsville and Stanley Valley area, using handwritten fliers stating, “Dalton Gibson, eight months old, has to have a kidney transplant in order to keep living.”
The flier also states that the Shriners are helping them get the transplant, but in the meantime Bundren was asking for donations for medicine for the child, “in order to stay alive.”
Bundren allegedly told one victim that the cost of the medicine was $1,000 per prescription.
HCSO Detective Randy Collier was notified of the alleged scam last Tuesday and obtained a copy of the flier.
“Detective Collier spoke to several subjects who’d been approached for donations by Mr. Bundren, and they were advised by him that it was his wife’s grandchild,” Christian said. “Detective Collier then contacted (Bundren’s) family members, and they advised that the defendant is lying. They said the defendant and his wife have a 3-month-old grandchild, and it is not suffering from any medical problems.”
Bundren’s wife has not been implicated in any donation solicitations and is not charged, Christian added. Christian added that because police have been in contact with Bundren’s family since the arrest warrants were issued it is likely he knows he is wanted.
Anyone with information on Bundren’s whereabouts is asked to contact the HCSO at 272-4848 or via Hawkins County Central Dispatch at 272-7121. The Sheriff’s Office also wants to talk to anyone who gave Bundren or anyone related to Bundren money under the pretense of aiding a sick child.
Surgoinsville Police Chief Jeff Hesoun said he became aware of the alleged scam through some county deputies who are part-time officers with his department. When he read the flier he recognized it as bogus right away.
“I recognized it as a scam because I know Shriners hospitals specialize in bones and burns, not transplants,” Hesoun said. “In fact, they don’t do transplants, and I know that because I have a child who required a transplant and I’m pretty aware of the facilities that do those procedures.”
Hesoun added that — based on some conversations he’s had with Surgoinsville residents since this matter arose — there will be several more alleged victims come forward once this story reaches the community. The two alleged victims listed in the arrest warrants were both Surgoinsville residents.
Although it is a HCSO investigation, Hesoun said he would be available to take statements from potential victims from his town for the HCSO at the police department.
The Rogersville Attorney General’s office was consulted by the HCSO about the appropriate charges in this case. Theft under $500 is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 11 months and 29 days in jail.
Christian said such a scam is a betrayal of the community’s trust and hurts people who are really in need.
“I’m afraid what something like this can do is ruin the confidence of people in our community from making charitable donations to legitimate causes,” Christian said. “You’ve got good-hearted people who want to help their fellow man, and when you have someone out there taking advantage of that generosity it hurts all the charities.”