Retired Marine Took Blankets And Food Donated To Homeless Vets And Sold Them For A Profit, State Charges


The Miami branch of the non-profit Florida Veterans Foundation was supposed to distribute 27,000 blankets and 9,700 ready-to-eat meals that were donated for homeless veterans in Miami.

Instead, state agents say, the foundation’s volunteer director in Miami sold the donations for profit back in 2015, depositing the $46,800 into a personal bank account. And that’s not all. State investigators say he also sold an additional stockpile of donated sleeping bags, cots and backpacks to a South Florida tactical supply store for nearly $80,000.

Antonio Colmenares, a well-known figure in Miami government and veterans circles, was arrested Wednesday on a charge of first-degree grand theft. His friend, Antonio Sabatier, 60, a volunteer with the organization, was also arrested.

“These donated items should have gone to help feed and warm veterans struggling to get back on their feet — instead they were sold to fatten the pockets of those charged with preying on the good intentions of others,” Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said in a statement.

Colmenares and Sabatier were booked into a Miami-Dade jail on Wednesday. It was unknown if they had retained defense lawyers.

The Florida Veterans Foundation is a non-profit that works for the state’s Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Nobody answered the phone Wednesday at its office in Tallahassee.

Colmenares, 57, is a retired U.S. Marine lieutenant colonel and logistics officer who ran unsuccessfully for Miami city commission in 2009. A year earlier, he also ran unsuccessfully to become the chairman of a Miami-Dade County panel tasked with overseeing spending of a transportation tax.

He was a staple at events to help Miami’s homeless veterans. Colmenares even helped craft a special court for veterans charged with crimes. “What our veterans need is not a handout, but a hand up,” he said in announcing the court in 2014 while appearing alongside Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle and Miami-Dade Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz.

Colmenares also volunteered on veterans issues out of the office of former Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado. He also served as Miami-Dade College’s director of military and veteran services.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement began investigating him in 2015 after the foundation complained of the possible theft of the blankets and ready-to-eat meals. Agents discovered that in Feburary 2015, he sold the items — and the $46,800 was deposited into an account for Nike Management, a company owned by Sabatier.

That May, he organized the Homeless Veterans Stand Down event, where veterans camped for three days at Robert King High Park in West Miami-Dade.

The other items were sold in 2014 and 2015 to Worldwide Tactical, a well-known South Florida tactical supply company. Agents said the company had no idea the items were stolen.


©2018 Miami Herald. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


Benjamin Franklin nailed it when he said, "Fatigue is the best pillow." True story, Benny. There's nothing like pushing your body so far past exhaustion that you'd willingly, even longingly, take a nap on a concrete slab.

Take $75 off a Casper Mattress and $150 off a Wave Mattress with code TASKANDPURPOSE

And no one knows that better than military service members and we have the pictures to prove it.

Read More Show Less
A Coalition convoy stops to test fire their M2 machine guns and MK19 Grenade Launcher in the Middle Euphrates River Valley in the Deir ez-Zor province, Syria, Nov. 22, 2018 (U.S. Army/Sgt. Matthew Crane)

BEIRUT (Reuters) - A suicide bomber drove his car into a checkpoint in northeastern Syria on Monday, injuring several soldiers of Kurdish-led forces during a joint convoy with U.S. allies, locals said.

Read More Show Less

Video game company Blizzard Entertainment, which creates blockbuster franchises like World of Warcraft and Overwatch, has stood behind veteran employment for years. On top of hiring veterans, they support many related programs, including Activision Blizzard's Call of Duty Endowment. Blizzard's goal there is to help veterans find careers by supporting organizations that prepare veterans for the job market.

Read More Show Less
A combat patrol advanced three miles north of Lucca (furthermost point occupied by American troops) to contact an enemy machine gun nest in September 1944 as part of the Italian Campaign (DoD/National Archives and Records Administration)

World War II Army veteran Milton Miller says he has never forgotten an act of cowardice by his platoon leader.

It happened in the Alban Hills south of Rome following the Allied Forces' amphibious invasion on the Italian beaches of Anzio in January 1944.

Read More Show Less

The Israeli military followed up on its weekend strikes in Syria the same way that any modern military might: By taunting its regional foe Iran with a silly-ass tweet.

Read More Show Less