Man sentenced for stealing $100K from veterans group - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Man sentenced for stealing $100K from veterans group

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

A man who was supposed to help disabled veterans will now spend 10 years behind bars for stealing from them.

The Channel 4 I-Team first uncovered this story last year as part of our investigative series called "Keeping the Promise." We were in court Friday as a number of disabled veterans showed up to see Thomas Keller sentenced for the crime against them.

As treasurer of the nonprofit group Tennessee Disabled American Veterans, Keller's job was to help returning troops. Instead, he stole tens of thousands of dollars from them.

And on Friday, some of those disabled veterans had strong words for him.

"We're not going to stop. He might have tried to stop us, but he didn't stop us," said Clay Phillips, with Tennessee Disabled American Veterans.

The nonprofit group helps troops move on with their lives after returning home from war with injuries, sometimes unable to walk.

Keller volunteered as treasurer of the Tennessee DAV from 2007 to 2010. In that time, the group says Keller stole more than a $139,000 from the servicemen and women who desperately needed it.

In April, Keller, who is also a disabled veteran, pleaded guilty to felony theft.

He was brought to tears in court Friday as he testified about the injuries he received and how his disabilities affected his life.

Members of the Tennessee DAV also took the stand to testify about Keller's theft. Other disabled vets sat together in the courtroom to send a strong message to the judge and Keller that crimes like this will not be tolerated.

"I did wrong, and I'm here to take responsibility for that," Keller said.

But many said that pledge is too little too late.

"In all honesty, to me, it was all a smoke screen," said Robert Wedge, with Tennessee DAV.

"I think if you talk to every one of the disabled veterans here today, you get a consensus answer that at this point it is not just too little too late. It's as much as we don't know if it's genuine. Everything has been a lie," Phillips said.

The Tennessee DAV says it was able to recover most of the stolen money through an insurance policy, but the group says it's still facing financial problems because of Keller's crime.

The Tennessee DAV has to pay more than $20,000 in IRS penalties, because as treasurer, Keller was responsible for paying federal tax withholdings. But those taxes were not paid.

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