Crimes, Cons and Capers: Fundraising Scams

LeeAnn Huntoon

LeeAnn Huntoon

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LeeAnn Huntoon

What happens when a tragedy strikes and someone’s seemingly good intentions are actually nefarious? When a sob and heart-tugging story is actually a lie? How does law enforcement sort out an actual victim from a criminal? Find out on this episode of “Crimes, Cons, and Capers: Fundraising Scams.”

Watch the full episode of “Crimes, Cons and Capers: Fundraising Scams on the Very Local app.

Help For A Hippo

In Cincinnati, Ohio, baby hippo Fiona was born in January of 2017 six weeks premature. The excitement of her birth caused a flurry of activity, including a twitter feed raising money and an online campaign selling shirts to raise money for her care while she is still in the ICU. But, surprise, the site selling $25 shirts was not connected to the zoo whatsoever. This scam is not new but still works, to make sure you are donating to a legitimate organization go directly to their website.  

Restored But Not Returned

Several years ago in Westmoreland, Pennsylvania, a man created an online profile to seduce and scam women. His con involved seducing  a woman and roping her into his entrepreneurial efforts to flip cars. She initially gave him $8,000 to flip cars, she then gave him $2,400 for repairs to those cars and then another $8,000 to buy a car for her mother. Days turned to weeks then months until she found out that none of those cars or repairs were real. After a check bounced and state police became involved, she discovered that she was scammed. 

More Than A Prayer

For the people of Northwestern Oklahoma, a story about a child with cancer tugged at their heart strings. The mother rallied support from her church and community for money for her ill daughter. All of those stories were lies that Jessica Good spent years spinning that produced thousands of dollars from people who thought they were helping the sick child. Her lies unraveled when it was discovered that funds she raised for her sick child to receive treatment in Chicago was actually a ruse for Jessica to meet a professional football player. After obtaining medical records for the child, police found no evidence of cancer or that the child was ever sick.

The Virtual Grinch

When holidays are drawing near, the toys are gathered for the less fortunate children. For years the U.S. Marine Corps has sponsored Toys for Tots in Albuquerque, New Mexico. But one year a fake GoFundMe account was created using the event’s name and shared online. The goal was attempting to intercept funds from the Toys for Tots. Fortunately the page was shut down immediately and no money was donated to the scam. 

Hero to Hustler

In April of 2013, the Boston marathon bombing occurred with severe reprecussions. As people were in fight-or-flight mode, Joanna Leigh chose fight and rushed toward the attack to help, or so she said. She claimed that she was a few feet away and hit by the second bomb when it exploded and was knocked unconscious, leaving her with injures to her brain, hearing and vision. She was gifted a donated service dog along with financial assistance from crowdfunding that totaled almost $40,000 and a $30,000 renovated bathroom. As she continued to speak publicly about her harrowing experience, news agencies started to find discrepancies with her stories. In fact, she was several blocks away from the explosion and as her story continued to unravel, by 2015 she finally admittted to wrongdoing and plead guilty to all charges. 

A New Ride

In 2017, 23-year-old Sabrina Galusha was stabbed to death and an acquaintance jumped into action to help the family, or so he says. Police say Jeffrey Grenier set up a GoFundMe campaign for Sabrina’s funeral fund that raised $5,000. However, those funds were never transferred to the family who was in desperate need to bury Sabrina, and, as the family struggled and scrambled to find a solution, Grenier used the funds to purchase himself a car. Jeffrey Grenier plead guilty to felony theft and was sentenced to nine months in jail. Thankfully, Sabrina’s father’s boss stepped in to pay for the funeral. 

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