UPDATE: We've spoken with the United Cajun Navy today, and they say they've got records for all the donations they've accepted and spent in the Seacor Power rescue effort.
The UCN has a "platinum" status as a 501c 3, which means that all donations and expenditures are documented and audited and provided to the IRS, said spokesman Brian Tracsher.
He said that, unfortunately, this situation - accusations that they're not spending donations correctly - seems to happen in every deployment.
"The bottom line is, we know who is behind it, we go through this on almost every mission, and the good thing is that now we've been through it enough that we know how to handle it. We know if you take away the platform these people are seeking, they'll eventually choke on their own oxygen and go away. That's what is going to happen here, it's happened every time. Hurricane season is about to start, and the UNC is not going anywhere. Where ever we're called, we will deploy," Trascher said.
Accusations are being made on social media that the UNC isn't spending the money on the search or the families, and Trascher said there's no proof - because it's not true.
"We have a long list of people, we have screen shots of them contacting the families and other people on social media, they're all on a protective order, they're not allowed to talk about the United Cajun Navy or anyone affiliated with it," he said. "Our lawyers are already gearing up their petitions to go to the judge about what the consequences will be."
Trascher said UCN members have been in contact with the families of the missing men, and the group's continuing efforts will be shared with them. They have posted an accounting on their Facebook page, and will continue to share documentation, he said. Whatever doesn't go to gas or other volunteer support will be divided among the families. Some people have asked for refunds, and they will get them, he added.
Earlier today, we reported that the volunteer efforts to search for the missing men of the Seacor Power have deteriorated over the past couple of days into angry and accusatory social media posts.
Ronnie Adams, who appears on a swamp-related reality show and has been the social media face of the volunteer effort, posted a video accusing the United Cajun Navy of not coming through with financial support promised. As the arguments continue and the accusations fly on Facebook, volunteers are still searching for the men who now have been missing for 19 days.
This morning, the United Cajun Navy announced it has withdrawn from the search.
Adams accuses the UCN of "trying to flip this on me. But it's nothing about me, cause I'm for the people."
Trascher provided KATC with a Venmo record indicating that it sent Adams' fiance or girlfriend a $1,000 "personal appearance fee" initially, then another $2,500. He said the UCN wanted Adams to use his celebrity to help bring visibility to the search efforts - and that did happen. He said the group feels they got "good value" from that appearance payment to Adams.
In his Facebook video, Adams says that someone he knows with the UCN called him to ask for help with the search. On that day, Adams says, he had "no money" for food and his vehicle was "on empty." That first day the UCN gave him $300 and promised to give him another $1,000 - - which they did. That money was used to fuel up boats and airboats, he said.
"I am not keeping no money," Adams said. He said he has been giving money "out of pocket" to help searchers fuel up for the efforts. He said Scott Daspit, father of one of the missing men, provided a credit card for searchers to use to fuel their boats and vehicles.
Then the UCN sent him another $2,500, Adams said. That money also will go to fuel, he said.
"I won't keep the money, that money will go to the people out there grinding it out," he said.
He directly accuses the president of UCN; saying he "opened up a can you gonna wish you ain't never dealt with, my baby. I can guarantee. There's a lot more stuff that I got, and it's going to come out. Every bit of it. I'm ready for you. You made a mistake. And instead of just being a man and owning up to it, you tried to turn the tables, but it's not gonna happen."
Here's Adams' video:
At the end of the video, Adams says he's not going to judge, and if the UCN posts receipts showing they spent the money as promised, adding "maybe they did do good. I don't know."
"You're not going to hear me talk about the United Cajun Navy anymore. I just won't," Adams said, adding that he was focused on the families of the missing.
The UCN will be needing receipts from Adams to show that he spent the $2,500 on fuel and other supplies for the search, since only the $1,000 was for his appearance, officials say.
After Adams' video was posted, the United Cajun Navy posted that they are formally withdrawing from the search - but wish those continuing the effort the best of luck.
"UCN was not the only group involved in search efforts and we hope and pray the search continues. Many people have spent their own money on fuel, hotels and supplies while others have been reimbursed or used on site fuel and hotels supplied by UCN and others," the post states. "Unfortunately, the volunteer search effort for the 7 missing Seacor crewmen has turned into a whirlwind of accusations, untruths and finger pointing when efforts should be still concerned with bringing the remaining 7 Seacor crewmen home."
The UCN says they will post a full accounting of the money collected and spent.
"The rumors of sea planes and fuel invoices not being paid are completely false. If anyone has receipts for the Seacor search or feels that they should be reimbursed, please send us a message or post in the comments," the post states. "People have started rumors based off of false information and statements in some part due to comments from individuals that United Cajun Navy has Permanent Protection Orders against. United Cajun Navy will strictly fight to enforce the Protection Orders against these individuals and in short time the truth about how these individuals affected several good people's negative comments will come out."
Here's their post:
The UCN has posted a general accounting of the money they've collected and how they have spent/will be spending it. However, as an update, a spokesman said many folks who donated are now asking for their money back, so that will affect how much money will be disbursed.
Here's that accounting, which was posted yesterday:
Here's the background: Over the weeks since the Seacor Power capsized, several searches have been conducted for the men who were on board.
Within minutes of the incident, described by officials as an almost instantaneous crisis brought about by weather that turned out to be much worse that forecasted, the Coast Guard and Good Samaritan vessels plucked six living souls from the sea; they were the only survivors ever found.
Since that day - April 13 - searches have continued. The U.S. Coast Guard continued to search for a week; during that week divers knocked on the hull and got no response. A total of six dead were recovered, leaving seven of the original 19-man crew unaccounted for.
The Coast Guard suspended their search, saying they did not believe anyone else survived. At that time, Seacor pledged to continue diving on the boat to try to find survivors, which they did until April 27, two weeks after the accident, when they said their efforts would shift to recovery.
Also at that time, one of several grass-roots search groups with the "Cajun navy" moniker got involved as well. The term was coined following Hurricane Katrina, when men and women across south Louisiana hooked their boat trailers up and drove down to New Orleans, trying to help those who felt abandoned by officialdom. During the years since, there have been several different "Cajun Navy" groups organized and publicized; almost all of them ask for donations and volunteers of some sort.
The version that went to help with the Seacor search was the United Cajun Navy. They collected funds to pay for gas, planes, food and water for volunteers to use. They also pledged to provide cash to the families of the men who are still missing. Emotional video was posted daily by Adams, showing life vests and hard hats which had been located. Family members said they still believed their fathers, husbands, sons and brothers would be found - alive.