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PANEL TARGETS MIA HUNTERS, REFERS 1 FUND-RAISER TO FBI

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a former Vietnam POW, blasted as misleading, if not an "outright lie," a claim by one of several organizations that raised funds purportedly to locate American servicemen missing since the Vietnam War.

McCain is a member of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs, which Wednesday released documents showing that the fund-raisers mailed millions of solicitation letters and made hundreds of thousands of telephone calls on behalf of clients who claimed they could help the missing servicemen.The committee, chaired by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., referred the case of Alan Goetsch Jr. to the FBI for possible prosecution.

Committee members alleged that Goetsch, 41, solicited money from families of POWs and MIAs to rent a motor home as a "safe house" for POWs he claimed he intended to rescue from Southeast Asia.

However, the committee alleged that Goetsch, who currently faces extradition from Cambodia to face unrelated fraud charges in California, actually made personal use of the vehicle and damaged it extensively.

Many of those targeted included people who raised money for the purported "rescues" of POWs allegedly still held in captivity.

One fund-raiser circulated copies of a letter supposedly handwritten on lined tablet paper by one of the rescue operatives. "Please excuse the handwriting," it said, "but I am writing at a makeship desk on the deck," of a rescue boat, "The (South) China Sea is tossing and rolling."

In fact, the letter was scripted by a Washington-area fund-raiser and the handwriting was done by a member of his staff. A State Department message released by the committee showed that the rescue vessel had been tied up for years in the Thai port of Songkhla. The boat was so unseaworthy that the Thais feared it might sink and block the port.