New Plum Legion commander scammed
Nancy Kunkel makes it her mission to help veterans in need.
When she received a telephone call on July 5 from a man who identified himself as a U.S. Army sergeant who needed money to return from the Pittsburgh area to his base in Fort Bragg, N.C., Kunkel, 54, of Plum, a U.S. Air Force veteran, was eager to help.
Little did Kunkel, who in September begins a one-year term as the first female commander of the Plum American Legion, know at the time that the man's story was not true.
Plum police have charged Miles Shoumake, 43, of Second Avenue, Pittsburgh, with two counts of theft by deception, receiving stolen property and identity theft. Shoumake is in the Allegheny County Jail on $25,000 bond pending a preliminary hearing scheduled for Wednesday before Plum District Judge Linda Zucco.
Kunkel, who in 2009 retired as a colonel with the U.S. Air Force, said the man later identified as Shoumake told her he was U.S. Army Sgt. William Coble.
The man told Kunkel he was visiting in the area to visit his father's grave at National Cemetery of the Alleghenies in Washington County. He said his pay and paperwork were “messed up” since his return from Afghanistan, she said.
The man said he would be considered absent without leave if he didn't return to Fort Bragg in two days, Kunkel said.
Kunkel agreed to meet the man later that day at the Motel 6 in Crafton.
The man showed Kunkel a military identification that had a photo that she said resembled the man, and she gave him $160 of her personal funds.
Kunkel said later in the day she was contacted by Allegheny County police who said the man, identified as Shoumake, had been arrested on unrelated charges. Kunkel said Shoumake had her contact information when he was arrested because he was supposed to repay her.
Shoumake also was carrying Coble's military identification. Coble's badge had been reported stolen June 6 from Russellville, Ark., according to the Plum police report. Plum police Chief Frank Monaco advises anyone who is asked for help by someone who claims to be a member of the military should verify the veteran's identity by contacting a military base or veteran organization.
“It makes you kind of leery about helping anyone,” Kunkel said.
Kunkel said in the future she would advise individuals asking for financial help to contact their military reserve base.
“I would not get involved personally,” Kunkel said.
Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400 ext. 8753 or firstname.lastname@example.org.