Committing Charity Fraud Can Result in Serious Federal Penalties

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Committing Charity Fraud Can Result in Serious Federal Penalties

Posted on in Criminal Defense

Stamford CT criminal defense attorneyPlatforms like GoFundMe provide a way for people to raise money for all different causes, including charities, events, and people who are facing challenging circumstances like serious illnesses and financial disasters. But what happens when someone sets up an online fundraiser that is not legitimate? Can they face criminal charges? According to the FBI, not only are scam fundraisers illegal, but if someone perpetrating a scam fundraiser is caught, he or she will be charged with a federal offense, just like a recent case in New Jersey.

Scam GoFundMe Raises $400,000

This case stemmed from a GoFundMe campaign a New Jersey woman and her then-boyfriend set up in 2017. In a story that went viral nationwide, the woman posted on her social media account that she had run out of gas and gotten stuck on a highway in Philadelphia. According to the woman’s claim, a homeless man saw her and gave her his last $20 for gas. Her post even included a photo of herself with the man. She and her boyfriend then set up the campaign, claiming they wanted to pay it forward by raising money for the homeless man.

The campaign made national headlines, with more than 14,000 people contributing to the campaign. After the platform took their fees, the couple ended up with more than $365,000. But instead of giving the money to its intended recipient, the couple spent it on trips, a BMW, and other high-ticket items. They did give the man who allegedly helped the woman out $75,000, but he filed a civil lawsuit against the couple. That’s when the details of the scam were revealed – the story about running out of gas was not true, but instead was a way to get people to feel sympathetic and donate to the illegitimate GoFundMe.

In 2019, the alleged homeless man pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit theft by deception and was sentenced to five years of special probation. That year, the ex-boyfriend also pled guilty and was sentenced to five years in state prison and ordered to pay restitution to the donors.

Last month, the woman pled guilty to one count of theft by deception in the second degree. She was sentenced to one year and a day in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution.

Call a Stamford, CT Defense Attorney

If you have been accused of charity fraud, you could be facing serious consequences if convicted, especially if you are being charged at the federal level. Do not delay in calling the Law Offices of Daniel P. Weiner at 203-348-5846 to schedule a free and confidential consultation with a seasoned Fairfield County fraud attorney.