Homes for Our Troops: “Money from the fundraiser was lost” (Andrew Caleb “Drew” Pritt aka Diedra)
by Melissa S. Green
Questions emerged over the weekend about missing funds from a fundraiser held last month to raise money for the charity Homes for Our Troops (HFOT). The fundraiser, dubbed “Home for an Alaskan Hero,” was intended to help complete building of a fully accessible home for Army Sergeant Latseen Benson of Chugiak, who lost his legs to an improvised explosive device (IED) in Iraq in November 2005. Latseen is the son of Alaska politician Diane Benson, an ally of the LGBT community.
The fundraiser, a drag and variety show held at Mad Myrna’s in Anchorage, raised $3,170 for HOFT and Latseen’s home, according to a post-event press release published on Bent Alaska. However, it appears that the money never reached HOFT.
The “Home for an Alaskan Hero” fundraiser was organized by Andrew Caleb Pritt, who was Diane Benson’s campaign manager for her 2010 run for lieutenant governor. Pritt has also written several articles as a contributor for Bent Alaska, and is well-known in Anchorage’s LGBT community under his drag persona Diedra Windsor Walker (and variations).
On Saturday, Benson posted a notice on her Facebook wall:
ALERT: Please be informed that Caleb Pritt, (aka, Andrew Pritt, Drew Pritt, A. Caleb Pritt, Diedra) is NOT AUTHORIZED TO RAISE MONEY ON BEHALF OF THE HOMES FOR OUR TROOPS OR ON BEHALF OF THE BENSON FAMILY. Please spread the word.
Several hours later, Pritt posted a lengthy note under his own Facebook profile, titled “The Dirt….You Asked For It, So Here You Go,” which he tagged to (that is, shared with) seven other people, including me. In it, Pritt attempted to explain what had happened with money from the fundraiser, stating in part,
First and foremost, money from the fundraiser was lost. I f*ed up by not reporting this. I was scared to report it and you know why, because I will tell you in a second. But money was lost and I thought I could quietly ﬁnd ways to make up for this. There would be no drama, no embarassment, and the most important thing, the vet would get his money. But in that process and trying to buy time, to keep things quiet, it makes it look like I made off with the money.
Pritt deleted the note from his Facebook profile sometime Sunday morning.
Pritt’s attempts at an explanation have been met with skepticism. On Sunday, Facebook profiles of his many acquaintances and friends (or former friends) in Anchorage’s LGBTQA community — particularly of people who had participated in or donated to the fundraiser — abounded with anger, outrage, and feelings of betrayal. By Sunday afternoon Pritt had deleted Facebook accounts under both his and his drag persona’s name.
At this writing, the “Homes for Our Troops” webpage for Latseen shows a donation from the Imperial Court of All Alaska (ICOAA) which in fact HFOT never received. Yesterday, Linda Kellen Biegel wrote on Bent Alaska’s Facebook wall,
An HFOT employee was convinced by Caleb Pritt that the check was coming so they posted it on the site in advance. I personally spoke to HFOT on Friday — Caleb even confirmed to me last week that’s why the check is listed. After further investigation, I have the scanned documentation on my computer to show that the check will not be coming to HFOT. As a matter of fact, none of the money from the fundraiser has been received by HFOT. I say this because the amount that is actually still needed to finish the house for Latseen and his family is about $2,541 and I hope folks can pitch in to help raise it.
Linda reports that she and Diane Benson will have further information on The Mudflats blog tomorrow.
Allegations against Pritt are reportedly being investigated by Anchorage Police Department. Other allegations made on Facebook yesterday included the claim that Caleb used the Homes for Our Troops name to solicit cash through a “split the pot” fundraiser at the Crazy Horse recently, and that he sought cash donations at the ICOAA’s annual Coronation event over the Labor Day weekend for a “step-down gift” for the outgoing Emperor and Empress — gifts which the two did not receive.
Prior to coming to Alaska to run Diane Benson’s lieutenant governor campaign, Pritt was a sometime political candidate in Arkansas and other states and ran for lieutenant governor of Arkansas as a Democrat in 2005 (under the name Drew Pritt). In 1999, while he was a staff member for U.S. Sen. Tim Hutchinson, a Republican, he was charged with a Class C felony for writing unauthorized checks on a U.S. Senate account. Charges were dropped in 2003 after he paid restitution and fees of $1,617.44, according to an August 9, 2005 story in the Arkansas News.
People who wish to see Sgt. Latseen Benson and his family to still get their home may donate directly through Latseen’s Home for Our Troops page. The Imperial Court of All Alaska also intends to hold an ICOAA-sponsored fundraiser for Sgt. Benson at a date to be announced.
Official statement from Mikey LaChoy, President, ICOAA
The Imperial Court of All Alaska (ICOAA) is a long-lived Alaska LGBTQA not-for-profit which over its life has raised over a million dollars for scholarships and charity. On Monday afternoon, ICOAA president Mikey LaChoy issued a statement on Facebook, which he granted permission for Bent Alaska to publish in full:
A note from the President of ICOAA and Emperor XXV Mikey LaChoy
by Mikey LaChoy on Monday, September 19, 2011 at 11:32am
Hello to all. It is so sad that I have to even make this statement but necessary for our Court and Community.
First the FACTS:
- Caleb Pritt aka Diedra is NOT a representative, titleholder, or member of the Imperial Court of All Alaska.
- Those who participated in the recent Homes for our Troops fundraiser did so out of a sense of compassion, generosity, and patriotism. These people stepped up when someone not a part of the organization came to them and asked each individual (not the organization) for their help and participation. This was not a Court-sponsored event.
- The night of the event our treasurer was asked if we would be willing to use our credit card machine to process donations from those who did not have cash or checks. As is our custom, we readily offered with the proviso that we kept out enough to cover transaction fees.
- Our treasurer did not handle other funds.
- A check for the credit card receipts less transaction fees was issued to Caleb who claimed he would consolodate all funds and issue a single check back to Homes for Vets.
- The check issued to Caleb was cashed by Caleb.
Here I must apologize on behalf of the Board of Directors that our treasurer was talked into writing a check to an individual rather than directly to the organization. It is our policy not to write any check to an individual unless it is a reimbursement for legitimate operating expenses. However, the check in question did indeed have a notation in the memo that it was specifically for the Homes for troops fundraiser. A copy of this check has been provided to the authorities.
Next, The Speculation:
Members of the ICOAA and community are urged not to speculate on what may or may not have happened… this only spins everyone up and appears to outsiders that we are jumping to conclusions. Remember every Veteran has served so that we can preserve our rights as Americans to include equal justice under the law with the right to a fair and impartial trial where one is innocent until proven guilty. The truth of the allegations may be glaringly obvious to most of us but as Americans, this is how we roll.
- Caleb (and any of his associated personalities) is not welcomed at any ICOAA event, meeting, party, gathering, or (do I need to say it?) fundraiser.
- Caleb will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law with the full cooperation of the Court (and, I hope, cooperation of the community).
- Let’s not waste our energy on speculation and negatives when there is so much positive that we can do for our community.
- Let’s be diligent in our fundraising practices and our procedures. New policy idea; When someone approaches in future requesting help with their fundraiser, we either do a fundraiser ourselves (by our rules) or we help with the proviso that we do not handle funds (even credit card transactions).
- When the Homes for Troops, Diane Benson, and the authorities are finished with dealing with Caleb we will have another fundraiser; this one to be an official Imperial Court sanctioned and operated event!
Thank you for your attention. I hope that we can all move on and continue what we do best; make the world a better place and bring our community together.
Always in Peace, Love, and Unity,
Emperor XXV Mikey LaChoy
President, ICOAA Board of Directors
Also known as
These are the known variations on Andrew Caleb Pritt’s name:
- Andrew Caleb Pritt
- Caleb Pritt — the name he was best known by in Anchorage
- Drew Pritt — the name he’s best known by in Arkansas, where he has been a sometime political candidate
- A. Caleb Pritt
- Caleb Andrew Pritt — the name he had at least some checks at the Homes For Our Vets fundraiser written out to
- Diedra Windsor Walker
- Diedra Richards
- Diedra Richards Ho Jenkins
- Diedra Richards Harrison
Updates & other stories
- 10 Aug 2011. “Home for an Alaska hero: A fundraiser for Sgt. Latseen Benson” (Bent Alaska). Event announcement, based on text written by Caleb Pritt. The benefit was held Saturday, August 13, 2011, at Mad Myrna’s.
- 16 Aug 2011. “Drag and variety show nets $3,170 toward an Alaska vet’s home” (Bent Alaska). Press release sent out by Caleb Pritt after the event.
- 19 Sep 2011. “Homes for Our Troops: ‘Money from the fundraiser was lost’ (Caleb Pritt)” by Mel Green (Bent Alaska). First report on Pritt’s apparent fraud.
- 20 Sep 2011. “The Swindling of Our Wounded Warriors — A Request for Assistance” by Linda Kellen Biegel (The Mudflats); includes an account by Diane Benson, mother of Sgt. Latseen Benson.
- 20 Sep 2011. Former friends of Caleb Pritt on Facebook report that he has fled Alaska back to Arkansas.
- 20 Sep 2011. “Wounded Vet Fundraiser Caleb Pritt Accused of Pocketing Donations: Several thousands of dollars were raised but the charity never saw a cent of that money” by Lauren Maxwell (KTVA Channel 11 News). Includes video.
- 28 Sep 2011. “Proceeds from show benefiting wounded soldier disappear: Show, auction raised more than $3,000″ by Casey Grove (Anchorage Daily News). Info from Diane Benson, Jennifer Fiorentino of Homes for Our Troops, Troy Pritt (Andrew Caleb Pritt’s father). Confirms that Pritt has returned to Arkansas, and is apparently in Little Rock.
- 29 Sep 2011. “Bent News, 2011-09-28: Andrew Caleb Pritt makes the Anchorage Daily News” (Bent Alaska). Summarizes the story so far.
Video from the September 20 KTVA news story:Tags: Andrew Caleb Pritt, benefits & fundraisers, Diane Benson, Imperial Court of Alll Alaska (ICOAA), Latseen Benson, Mikey LaChoy, servicemembers & veterans, video