Former Never-Trump Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger has been found serving on the board of a group being accused of embellishing frontline service by its leading figure in Ukraine’s war with Russia.
Ripley’s Heroes, a volunteer group currently under investigation for export violations in wartime activities, is home to Kinzinger as well as James Vasquez, an American who rose to prominence on social media for boasting of his role overseas. Vasquez, who was recently filmed in a New York subway fistfight, has been the subject of criticism that’s poked holes in his war stories, according to The Post Millennial.
Vasquez was profiled by Newsweek in 2022 where he claimed to have taken out seven Russian tanks. As chief strategic officer, he purportedly raised $1 million for Ripley’s Heroes to purchase $63,000 worth of night vision and thermo-optic goggles for Ukrainian troops and American volunteers. However, Ripley’s was not disclosed as a buyer to the U.S. State Department, and officials confirmed that an investigation is underway to determine if the group’s export violations led to its purchases falling into the hands of enemy combatants.
As his leading advocate on Twitter, Kinzinger posted photos with Vasquez and appealed to Elon Musk to have Vasquez’s account verified. When questions were raised about Vasquez’s activities last week, he deleted his Twitter profile.
Kinzinger’s favorite Ukraine hero just deleted his account after it came out he is a fraud pic.twitter.com/nZ1Ouc4xiv
— Jack Posobiec 🇺🇸 (@JackPosobiec) March 22, 2023
Despite not having been approved as a 501(c)3 by the IRS, Ripley’s Heroes began accepting donations immediately. Kinzinger came to the Vasquez’s defense last year, saying “he’s legit and too many folks are tying to create fake acts with him. I have a bill in congress to deal with this… Since this was happening to me for so long.”
Questions about Kinzinger’s associate were raised after a statement by Sarah Ashton-Cirillo of the Armed Forces of Ukraine which accused Vasquez of “stolen valor,” or the practice of claiming a military background despite not having served.
Independent journalist Jordan Schachtel gave more background on the debacle.
“Kinzinger was ON THE BOARD of the Ukraine org that scammed people out of millions of dollars!” he tweeted. “There is now an ongoing federal investigation into Ripley’s, according to NYT.”
“Ripley’s donations were used to funnel cash from the non-profit into a for-profit venture. Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that this is fraud,” Schachtel continued.
“What did Kinzinger know about it? Was Adam Kinzinger a party to a massive fraud scheme? Sure seems cozy with these guys, who visited his office in September.”
There is now an ongoing federal investigation into Ripley's, according to NYT.
Ripley's donations were used to funnel cash from the non-profit into a for-profit venture. Doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that this is fraud.
What did Kinzinger know about it?
— Jordan Schachtel (@JordanSchachtel) March 25, 2023
Check out what the New York Times reported:
Last spring, a volunteer group called Ripley’s Heroes said it had spent approximately $63,000 on night-vision and thermal optics. Some of the equipment was subject to American export restrictions because, in the wrong hands, it could give enemies a battlefield advantage.
Frontline volunteers said Ripley’s delivered the equipment to Ukraine without required documentation listing the actual buyers and recipients. Recently, the federal authorities began investigating the shipments, U.S. officials said.
In his defense, the group’s founder, a retired U.S. Marine named Lt. Col. Hunter Ripley Rawlings IV, provided deal documents to The Times. But those records show that, just as the volunteers said, Ripley’s was not disclosed to the State Department as the buyer.