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Houston Man Admits Defrauding VFW

A Houston businessman has pleaded guilty to mail fraud after federal investigators alleged he stole $100,000 from a charitable organization for veterans, federal officials said Monday.

Joe H. Nichols, 46, was charged last month with mail fraud, accused of keeping donations made to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, a charitable organization that supports veterans and active duty personnel who are serving in the U.S. military overseas.

The VFW agreed to fund a project that would allow soldiers deployed in remote locations of Iraq to communicate with their families. Nichols agreed to help the organization by having his company, Prasolus, serve as project manager to get the communication hardware and software to Iraq,

The Texas branch of the organization raised approximately $182,000 for the project, from which Nichols submitted invoices for payment. In June 2007, he traveled to the organization's national headquarters in Kansas City and requested that they give him an additional $100,000 to complete the project. The VFW sent Nichols a check for $100,000, but the communication system was never delivered.

An FBI investigation revealed that Nichols used the money for personal benefit. He will face 20 years in prison and a possible $250,000 fine at his sentencing hearing, which is set for Oct. 22.

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