A 49-year-old Richfield woman has been charged with stealing more than $2,000 from a crowdfunding account set up to help a family friend who suffered a personal loss, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office said Thursday.
Kimberly Ann Freese was charged with one count of theft via summons on March 27, accused of stealing donations and using them on Amazon, iTunes and pizza purchases. Freese made her first court appearance Thursday.
According to the criminal complaint, the friend suffered a death in his family on Nov. 15 and incurred thousands of dollars in related expenses. Within 24 hours of the death, Freese contacted the victim and offered to start a GoFundMe account to raise money for him.
Freese linked her own bank account to the fund so donated money would go into her account.
According to the criminal complaint, the crowdfunding campaign raised $2,645 in donations from 34 people.
On Nov. 20, the victim asked Freese for the money so he could pay for impending expenses. Freese said it would take five to seven days for it to become available. The victim continued to ask for the donations, but Freese said she didn’t have the money yet, according to the complaint.
On Nov. 29, GoFundMe transferred $2,245 to Freese’s bank account, after processing fees were deducted.
After learning the money had been deposited into Freese’s account, Richfield police started investigating the case. Freese allegedly admitted to police that she had received the money but no longer had it.
According to the criminal complaint, Freese’s bank records show that in the weeks after the GoFundMe deposit was made, there were about 50 purchases from Amazon and iTunes, plus several pizza deliveries and other purchases. As of March 15, Freese had not made any payments to the victim or attempted to arrange for payment, the charges say.
In a prepared statement, GoFundMe said it has donated $2,425 to the intended beneficiary and is working with law enforcement to investigate.
“Misuse is very rare on our platform,” according to the statement. “In the rare case that GoFundMe, law enforcement or a user finds campaigns are misused, donors are fully protected and will get refunded. And if a campaign organizer does not deliver funds to the intended recipient, GoFundMe will donate the undelivered amount to the right person.”