By Ryan Velez
GoFundMe, at the surface, should be a platform that allows people across the world to financially support those in need. However, a recent story reported on by The Grio shows how the good plans of others can be exploited. A woman allegedly stole $38k in donations meant for the daughter of a woman who was shot.
After Stephanie Goodloe was shot by her ex-boyfriend, a co-worker of hers started a GoFundMe page to raise money to take care of the 11-year-old. According to an arrest affidavit, the co-worker “kept the majority of the funds raised for herself,” rather than giving them to the daughter or her guardian. Arlene Petty, of Capitol Heights, Maryland has been arrested and charged with one count of first-degree fraud. She has since been released from jail and her next hearing will be in D.C. Superior Court on Jan. 22. This marks one too many struggles for the family and loved ones of Goodlowe, who worked at a school and big-box retailer, as well as serving as the youth ministry director at her church.
Her ex-boyfriend, Donald Hairston, 49 is set to go on trial for first-degree murder in April. Just two weeks before her death, Goodloe had been granted a temporary restraining order against Hairston.
“We plan on following this case really closely,” said Goodloe’s cousin, Kim Smith, about the fraud charge. “Along with the murder trial, this is yet another case that the family has to follow so we know that justice has been served.” Smith was initially surprised by the GoFundMe, but other relatives reassured her that it was okay. The account was originally created on June 20, 2016, two days after the murder and it was a joint account that involved Petty and the little girl’s grandmother. On March 29th, a relative filed a complaint that the grandmother was locked out of the account. It turned out that Petty transferred $35,054 out of the account and into her personal bank account. Only $9000 ever made it to the family.
Bobby Whithorne, a spokesman for GoFundMe, has said that the company will be working with police and the courts to “ensure all of the money raised goes to the family.” He added that if the courts are unable to recoup the money, “GoFundMe will make a donation to the family.”