‘Good Samaritan’ arrested in theft

A Columbus man who portrayed himself as a good Samaritan who was robbed when helping a stranded motorist has been arrested on charges of false informing and theft from a church bowling league.

Michael P. VanWhy, 51, 736 Smith St., is being held in the Bartholomew County Jail in lieu of $35,000 bond.

He was arrested on misdemeanor charges of theft and false informing and felony charge of check deception, said Sgt. Matt Harris, Columbus Police Department spokesman.

Columbus police first questioned VanWhy on May 11, when he told them he was the victim of an armed robbery after he stopped to help a stranded motorist on U.S. 31 near Washington Street.

Dubbed a good Samaritan in that incident, VanWhy told police a bank bag containing money that belonged to his church bowling league was stolen along with his wallet and other personal property.

Columbus police used its K-9 units to search for the robber as a severe storm passed through Columbus.

However, Detective Sgt. Tom Foust later received a tip that created doubts about VanWhy’s account.

When Foust met with VanWhy on May 15, VanWhy told him he had made a false report about the robbery because he had been using the church bowling league money to pay for personal expenses.

The money was to have been used to pay for the bowling league’s annual banquet and awards, Harris said. The church and bowling league were not identified by police.

In a probable-cause affidavit, VanWhy is accused of taking more than $1,500 in league money and writing several checks knowing there was insufficient money in the league account to cover the checks.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.