Former Idaho American Legion commander suspected of stealing $750K-plus in nonprofit funds - East Idaho News
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Former Idaho American Legion commander suspected of stealing $750K-plus in nonprofit funds

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BOISE (Idaho Statesman) — A former commander of the Idaho American Legion is under investigation for allegedly embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars after years of financial irregularities were discovered on the nonprofit’s books.

Charles “Abe” Abrahamson, 54, of Mountain Home, who went on to serve as a senior member of the statewide organization’s executive committee, was suspended from his position in April on suspicion of misusing American Legion funds. Two days later, the Idaho State Police executed a search warrant at his home and collected a variety of American Legion property, according to an email to members from Idaho American Legion Commander Doug Huffman.

The statewide nonprofit, based in Boise, primarily provides services for military veterans. It is still calculating total figures, but so far it has estimated the amount of money Abrahamson allegedly stole to be at least $750,000, said longtime member Bob Skinner, the Idaho American Legion’s national executive committeeman.

“It’s like a stab in the heart to me,” Skinner said in a phone interview with the Idaho Statesman. “From my point of view, this individual was trustworthy, and I would have trusted him with my life. And, boy, he had us all fooled.”

Idaho State Police declined to say whether the agency served a search warrant at Abrahamson’s Elmore County home, and also denied a public records request from the Statesman for all criminal investigation documents related to Abrahamson. The agency cited exemptions against release of police investigatory records, including that they could interfere with law enforcement proceedings or deprive someone of their right to a fair trial.

Elmore County Prosecutor Shondi Lott confirmed to the Statesman that ISP executed a search warrant at Abrahamson’s home, but said she had no other information to share at this time.

Reached by a Statesman reporter on his cellphone Thursday evening, Abrahamson hung up when asked about the Idaho American Legion’s accusations. Follow-up emails to Abrahamson received no response.

No charges have been filed against Abrahamson, fellow Idaho American Legion executive committee member Sandy Castellano said at a local chapter meeting in Eagle on Tuesday. While the investigation is ongoing, it remains unclear whether the nonprofit will file a civil suit against Abrahamson, she told members.


The Idaho American Legion’s leadership team said it first spotted red flags over the finances late last year. The concerns included an unpaid loan and some unresolved tax debts, Huffman told membership in the email obtained by the Statesman that detailed the nonprofit’s allegations against Abrahamson. Before his suspension, Abrahamson served in the role of adjutant for the statewide nonprofit, a senior executive position that directly assists the commander.

“We saw some bills that weren’t getting paid and we asked questions about that. Of course, he had answers for everything,” Skinner said, adding that he used to consider Abrahamson a good friend. “Things just kind of snowballed to the point that we said, ‘OK, something’s wrong here, we’ve got to figure out what’s going on.’ ”

Skinner, who noted that the Idaho American Legion has about 11,000 members across more than 100 local chapters statewide, confirmed the authenticity of Huffman’s email to the Statesman.

The situation quickly went from bad to worse.

The property taxes on the nonprofit’s Boise headquarters hadn’t been paid in a couple of years, and the building was suddenly nearing foreclosure, Skinner said. Several investment savings accounts used to fund various youth programs each year had been cleared out and closed, he said.

A checking account the organization maintained normally held $90,000, Skinner told the Statesman. Bank records soon revealed it had a balance of about $1,000, Huffman told membership.

“We knew we had a big problem to discuss,” Huffman wrote in the email.

Under advice from attorneys, including former Idaho Attorney General Alan Lance, who previously served as the American Legion’s national commander, the Idaho American Legion contacted the Boise Police Department in March to share its concerns. Boise police turned the investigation over to ISP, Huffman and Skinner said.

A Boise police spokesperson referred the Statesman to the Idaho State Police.


Each year, the Idaho American Legion’s Finance Commission reviewed its balance sheets to build the nonprofit’s annual budgets, but the documentation for those accounts was overseen by Abrahamson in his most recent position, Skinner said. Organization leadership now alleges that Abrahamson fabricated records to avoid detection while he tapped nonprofit funds for personal use, Huffman told membership.

“Unbeknownst to us, he was falsifying all those documents, and so that’s how it happened,” Skinner said. “We thought we had checks and balances in there. Obviously, we did not.”

The organization has already rewritten bylaws to prevent a similar situation from happening, Skinner said. Financial practices have been revised as well, to ensure that banks send account information directly to the Finance Commission rather than just the person in Abrahamson’s prior leadership team role.

Nevertheless, the loss of money stands to affect some annual services put on by the statewide nonprofit. Cuts to programs undoubtedly are coming, Skinner said, but the Idaho American Legion plans to go ahead with some of its usual offerings, including high school government education, its youth baseball league and support for children battling cancer.

“It’s a tight purse, but we’re getting there,” Skinner said.

“It has crippled us, but it hasn’t put us out of action. It certainly set us back a bunch, but we’re just going to have to try to move forward, which we are intending to do.”


These aren’t the first financial claims made against Abrahamson, a Gulf War veteran who served in the U.S. Marine Corps. He later joined the Idaho National Guard.

Abrahamson was convicted in Twin Falls County of felony grand theft in 2001, according to court records. He violated his plea-bargained probation and was resentenced in June 2004 to up to 10 years in prison.

The Idaho American Legion wasn’t aware of the extent of Abrahamson’s criminal history, Skinner said. When the organization asked him about his past as he ascended into organization leadership, Abrahamson was dishonest about the circumstances, Skinner said. He also acknowledged that the leadership team should have taken a closer look.

But since his release in July 2014, according to Idaho’s state prison system, Abrahamson made a name for himself within the Idaho American Legion and in the greater community. Idaho’s two U.S. senators spotlighted him for his work.

Abrahamson, co-owner with his wife, Robin, of a car service shop named A & J Auto Repair in Twin Falls for several years, won respect as the operator of a veteran-owned small business in the state. Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, recognized the Abrahamsons as such when he read their names into the Congressional Record in November 2019.

Abrahamson had been given the American Legion National Recruiter of the Year award, Risch noted. He recruited more than 700 new members in the prior year, Risch said.\

In 2020, Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, named Abrahamson among his recipients for the annual “Spirit of Freedom” Idaho veterans service awards.

“While his time in uniform may have ended, his service to others continues to this day,” then-Commander Darrel Homer for the Idaho Falls Post of the Idaho American Legion wrote in Abrahamson’s award nomination. “Abe has also assisted the community’s youth among his significant service efforts.”

Abrahamson joined the Idaho American Legion’s leadership team in mid-2017, Skinner said. He credited Abrahamson with helping launch two local chapters of the organization in the state prison system.

Most recently, in January, Risch honored Abrahamson for rescuing a man from a burning vehicle that reportedly exploded moments later along a highway during the holiday season in 2023, according to a KTVB report.

Risch and Crapo’s offices did not respond to requests for comment from the Statesman.

By the end of last year, the Idaho American Legion was asking questions about the nonprofit’s finances under Abrahamson’s watch, according to Huffman’s email to membership. Within months, Abrahamson was suspended from his position on the organization’s leadership team.

Working with the state police, the organization continues to try to piece together Abrahamson’s actions, according to Skinner.

“He was doing good things for the Legion, and it’s unfortunate,” Skinner said. “But he won’t be remembered for any of that. He’ll be remembered as a crook.”