When Thomas Dzieran retired from the U.S. Navy in 2011, he thought his fighting days were over. Dzieran focused his efforts on charity work aimed at helping former SEALs like himself acclimate to civilian life.
But soon after starting his charity, Navy SEALs Fund, Dzieran says he was approached by a man from Scottsdale who claimed to be able to raise money and raise the charity's profile.
"It appeared that he was trying to help us," said Dzieran during a satellite interview from Ohio.
But soon afterward, Dzieran says he found out the man, whose name is Graham Ware, had purchased web addresses and begun his own organizations with names similar to those of existing SEAL charities.
These are the websites and/or organizations Dzieran said were already established:
Navy SEAL Foundation
Navy SEALs Fund
Support our SEALs
These are the organizations/web addresses Dzieran said Ware started:
Navy SEALs Foundation
Navy SEAL Fund
Support the SEALs
"So we confronted him about it, and we found out he opened a Facebook page," said Dzieran, who believes Ware was trying to hijack web traffic from the established organizations to his own. It's something referred to as "brand jacking" in the Internet world.
He and other retired Navy SEALs issued a letter to Ware, demanding that he cease and desist using the names and the SEAL emblem.
Ware refused repeated requests for an on-camera interview, saying that he would only meet off-camera and off the record. But through email exchanges, he denied that he has done anything wrong.
Ware raised thousands of dollars for Navy SEAL causes. But his critics say he passed himself off as having a legitimate charity organization. A check of incorporation records in Arizona show only that he reserved a trade name, Support the Seals LLC, but that reservation expired in January.
Through email exchanges, Ware denied he ever said he had a charity organization. He stated that any dispute was solely with Dzieran and that he thought it was worked out last year when Ware gave up one of the disputed web addresses.
On May 4, Debbie Lee was busy overseeing a fundraiser for her own local charity, America's Mighty Warriors. She organizes retreats for the families of fallen military members in memory of her son, Marc.
"He was a Navy SEAL, and he was killed August 2, 2006. He stood in the direct line of fire three times that day, all by himself, to provide cover to protect his buddies," said Lee.
Just last week, Lee said she directed her lawyer to take action against Ware.
"My lawyer had to draw up paperwork to do a cease and desist," said Lee.
The letter accuses Ware of using the name, America's Mighty Warriors, without authorization.
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