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5 GoFundMe campaigns that weren’t what they claimed to be

By Talia Lakritz From Business Insider

Matt Cardy / Stringer / Getty Images
  • Not all GoFundMe campaigns are necessarily trustworthy.
  • Some people have reportedly faked illnesses or staged acts of kindness to get rich quick.
  • A campaign that calls itself “official” isn’t necessarily affiliated with the person it’s raising money for.

You can’t trust everything you read on the internet.

While most GoFundMe crowdfunding campaigns have raised millions of dollars for worthy causes, a few haven’t had the purest intentions. Turns out some people who set up fundraising pages are just looking to leverage a fabricated sob story to get rich quick — often with devastating consequences.

According to GoFundMe, “fraudulent campaigns make up less than one tenth of one percent of all campaigns.

“In the rare instances where people create campaigns with the intention to take advantage of others’ generosity, GoFundMe takes swift action to resolve the issue,” their website reads.

Here are five crowdfunding campaigns that weren’t what they appeared to be.

A couple raised $400,000 for a homeless man after posting a photo that went viral, but investigators say it was an elaborate plot to make up a viral story and steal the money they raised from it

kate mcclure homeless veteran
Mark D’Amico and Kate McClure on NBC’s “The Today Show.”

According to the story posted on GoFundMe, Johnny Bobbitt, a homeless United States Marine veteran, gave his last $20 to Kate McClure for gas after her car broke down near a Philadelphia overpass he lived under. McClure and her boyfriend, Mark D’Amico, then helped Bobbitt get back on his feet. They posted the story on GoFundMe and ultimately raised $400,000 for him.

Bobbitt then sued the couple, claiming they withheld the money from him and that they used it for their own vacations and luxury goods. It led to a series of court hearingsa police raid, and aninvestigation that ultimately led authorities to conclude that the trio had fabricated the story.

New Jersey prosecutors charged McClure, D’Amico, and Bobbitt with second-degree theft by deception and conspiracy to commit theft by deception.

“The paying-it-forward story that drove this fundraiser might seem too good to be true,” New Jersey’s Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina said at a November press conference. “Unfortunately, it was. The entire campaign was predicated on a lie.”

Parents of a 9-year-old boy raised over $3,000 to help with his cancer treatments — but police say he wasn’t sick at all

gofundme screenshot
A screenshot from the since-deleted GoFundMe page.

A GoFundMe campaign claimed to be collecting money for Martin and Jolene LaFrance after their son, CJ, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. A web archive of the page from August 30, 2017, shows that they raised $3,334 of their $8,000 goal. CJ and his family members were also brought in to Syracuse football practice to meet the players.

But a four-month-long investigation by the Cayuga County Sheriff’s Office “revealed conclusively that the child was never diagnosed with cancer or any other medical condition that was alleged in the GoFundMe solicitation,” according to CNN.

The LaFrances were charged with scheme to defraud in the first degree and endangering the welfare of a child. GoFundMe said in a statement to WSYR-TV in Syracuse that donors would receive refunds.

Police say a man intentionally injured his dog, then raised $14,000 in a GoFundMe campaign for the dog’s ’emergency surgery’

gofundme screenshot dog
An archived screenshot from the deleted campaign.

When Reid M. Herjo was stopped for speeding by police in Medford, New Jersey, he said he was taking his dog Atlas to a veterinary hospital after he was hit by an ATV. A few days later, police received a tip alleging that Herjo had lied about how Atlas was injured.

The Medford Township Police Department said that an investigation showed Herjo had “intentionally caused the injuries to Atlas,” and that the dog had been injured at least two other times. Atlas then died in Herjo’s care “under suspicious circumstances,” police said.

The investigation also uncovered a GoFundMe campaign that hadraised $14,065 towards Atlas’ “emergency surgery” for injuries Herjo said he had sustained in a hit-and-run.

Herjo was charged with third-degree animal cruelty and third-degree theft by deception.

A woman accused of raising $2,000 by fabricating her son’s terminal leukemia diagnosis was sentenced to five to 12.5 years in prison

gofundme campaign scam leukemia
A screenshot from the now-deleted campaign.

AP News reported that Victoria Morrison spent months faking her 10-year-old son Blake’s terminal illness, collecting gifts and donations and even telling Blake that he was dying from leukemia, according to prosecutors.

Carson City Sheriff Kenny Furlong said that Morrison raised $2,000 through GoFundMe, posted on social media that her son had died and that his body had been cremated, and held a fake memorial service. Police then found the boy in perfect health at a motel, according to KOLO.

She plead guilty to child neglect or endangerment causing substantial mental harm and was sentenced to five to 12.5 years in prison. A GoFundMe spokesperson told AP News that the donors would be refunded.

An ‘official’ GoFundMe campaign to pay legal fees for a father who attempted to attack convicted serial child molester Larry Nassar raised nearly $30,000, but the father wasn’t in legal trouble

father attacks larry nassar

Randall Margraves rushed at former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar after his daughters had spoken out against Nassar in court and was removed by law enforcement officials. A person named Aaron Pangborn then set up a GoFundMe campaign to pay his legal fees, calling it “the official Go Fund Me page to help a brother and friend in need.”

Margraves did not face any legal charges for his outburst, and his attorney asked for the GoFundMe website to be taken down because it wasn’t authorized. A GoFundMe spokesperson told USA Today that donors can request refunds and that leftover money would be distributed to organizations that help survivors of abuse.

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