PITTSBURGH – A man was charged Thursday with soliciting donations for tsunami relief by sending 800,000 phony e-mails purporting to be from a nationally known aid organization, federal prosecutors said.
Matthew Schmieder (search), 24, was arrested at his home Thursday, just days after several states and consumer watchdog agencies warned about such scams. He said he planned to use any money he got to repair his car and pay bills, according to court documents.
Schmieder was released on $25,000 bail by a federal magistrate. He did not comment as he left the court.
According to the criminal complaint, Schmieder said he had sent the e-mail to 800,000 Internet addresses and had begun to receive donations.
Investigators found Schmieder by figuring out who copied the same images from the group's Web site that were found on the e-mail, according to the complaint.
Officials with Mercy Corps did not immediately return a call for comment Thursday.
Founded in 1979, Mercy Corps has provided more than $830 million in aid to people in 80 countries.