A Wildwood man volunteering with the American Red Cross stole nearly $75,000 from the organization by using debit cards meant to help disaster victims, the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office and Middle Township Police Department said Friday.

Matthew Maxwell, 62, was arrested Thursday and charged with unlawful taking and credit card fraud, both third-degree crimes that carry the potential of three- to five-year state prison terms.

Maxwell was on the disaster relief team for the American Red Cross Southern Shore Chapter, authorities said, which gave him access to debit cards the group would issue to victims.

He would allegedly activate the cards from existing relief victims whose accounts were already closed and use them. The thefts took place between July 2012 and December 2012.

“The Red Cross uncovered the alleged financial improprieties with disaster assistance records late last year, turned the information over to the Middle Township Police Department and is working with authorities investigating this matter,” read a statement from the American Red Cross.

“The individual’s volunteer status ended in January, 2013,” the statement said. “Until this matter is fully investigated through the legal system we are unable to discuss the specifics of the case.”

Maxwell was a volunteer with the organization for five years. The Press of Atlantic City interviewed him in 2011 after he said he returned home after spending two weeks helping people whose homes were destroyed by tornadoes in North Carolina. He also said he was a retired U.S. Army staff sergeant.

“I want to give back,” he said at the time. “There are people who still help.”

Contact Lee Procida:

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