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Few things are as charming as horses, kids and cowboys. Now a recent transplant to Las Vegas is using that combination to promote a cross-country horseback ride for charity. Since late April, Richard Fipps of cowboyshelpingkids.com has been asking for prayers and support for a charitable journey he says he just completed. KNPR's Ky Plaskon reports.
PLASKON: Richard Fipps says he is a real cowboy. This week he claimed to have finished a 2-thousand mile horseback ride across the western US from Mexico to Canada.
FIPPS: I have experienced ice, snow, heat, I have experienced no people, I have experienced crowds, I have experienced it all fella.
PLASKON: Fipps' cause is to feed the hungry in the U.S. and donate to missions that serve battered women and children. On one ride in Mississippi, he held a canned food drive and the Tupelo Childrens' Mansion told KNPR Fipps provided a lot of food for its shelter. But in the west Fipps says people haven't been too receptive on his most recent ride on the west coast though.
FIPPS: They are really scared, they are leery, everybody is always on guard when you are talking to them.
PLASKON: He says support was so lacking he won't hold another charity ride in the west. Fipps did however convinced businesses to support him. For instance Bruce Childress of the Hitching Post Trailer Sales gave Fipps a deal on a fancy combination horse trailer and RV as a support vehicle for his cross-country journey.
CHILDRESS: Lavatory facilities, refrigerator, sing, hot cold running water.
PLASKON: Similar trailers cost between 30 and 200 thousand dollars Childress says. Childress hoped Fipps ride would be good publicity for his business.
CHILDRESS: He is out there riding and 6-9 months later I might hear that I was in Montanna and I met Richard and saw your name on his trailer and I really liked it.
PLASKON: Absolute Internet Marketing also donated a 5-thousand dollar web site to Fipps' cause.
MCCARRICK: He asked for a web site with a daily journal. He calls every day about 5 am and we pick that up and type it up and put it on the web site for people to read."
PLASKON: Pat McCarrick is the co-owner of Absolute Internet Marketing. The web site he donated features a place for the public to make contributions and a daily journal. Here's Fipps' entry from June 28 when he says he was in Montana: I believe it was a rough and miserable day. To start off with got out of cell range and couldn't call for support to get the horses up. I'm in the middle of open range all I see is a lot of sky but its god awful pretty. I'm ok there is no need to panic, no need to call the National Guard, I will survive. I'm a cowboy true and hard.
PLASKON: McCarrick, who posted that message for Fipps, admits he doesn't know if any of Fipps' journal is true.
MCCARRICK: Everything is pretty much on his word. I am not out there on a horse with him."
PLASKON: KNPR called Fipps on Friday and asked him if he really is on that charity ride.
PLASKON: Where are you now?
FIPPS: Oh, sitting about 200 yards away from a camp, I'm in Montana.
PLASKON: Can you describe what you see for me?
FIPPS: Oh Rolling hills, the Rockies and a lot of blue sky.
LANDRY: I realized I have been seeing this guy here and he just yelled at me today and his web site says he is in Bozeman Montana in the middle of this big charity ride. It just doesn't add up.
PLASKON: Shane Landry is Fipps neighbor on the north west side of Las Vegas.
PLASKON: And this looks fishy to you now?
LANDRY: Absolutely, when he is writing about having woken up under the beautiful stars or when he talks about not getting aa wink of sleep because of being out on the plains when I know he was sleeping 50 feet away next door. That is fishy.
PLASKON: While Fipps' published journal said he was in Montana on June 28, KNPR caught him on videotape, at his home in Las Vegas. He tied up his horses in the street of the residential neighborhood for more than two hours. Teenagers with mohawks showed up at his house. One of the horses escaped and started to eat the neighbor's grass. Fipps fought with his neighbors too.
PLASKON: You are ling to people on your web site
FIPPS: Well sir I don't know if you want to consider that ling. It is designed to bring awareness to battered women and children.
PLASKON: While Fipps says that's his calling, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department records show Fipps was arrested on December 12th for battery and domestic violence. Fipps says that telling people he is on a charity ride for Battered women when he really isn't doesn't harm anyone.
FIPPS: Well sir it wouldn't be considered fraud if people hadn't donated anything and secondly if you really want to get down to the bottom of it as long as I got wranglers on that ride I can say I am anywhere I want to be.
SEVERANCE: My sponsorship was right around 1,000 dollars, it is not much but for me being a small business guy it was a lot.
PLASKON: Ed Severance, owner of Rhino Linings Las Vegas also donated to Fipps' purported cause. Severance says he donates to local schools and the Ronald McDonald house.
SEVERANCE: When I find out that someone is bluntly screwing you it makes you not want to do it in the future.
PLASKON: Severance says he will probably sue Fipps. The FBI is looking into the matter.
Ky Plaskon, News 88-9 KNPR