Joey Salas is a survivor. He lives with (not suffers from) cerebral palsy, and in January the Dallas man survived a hit and run accident that mangled his motorized wheelchair and left him in the hospital unsure if he would be able to keep his legs.
Right after the incident, while Joey was in the hospital, his sister put up a GoFundMe campaign called OFFICIAL Justice for Joey. It raised $21550 of a $40k goal.
As the money was pouring into the fundraiser started by his sister Angie, Joey took to the media to say that he didn’t trust his family to control these funds in his name. CBS DFW reported:
When a Dallas man’s legs were crushed by a hit-and-run driver last week, the community came together with thousands of dollars in donations.
But those donations are tearing apart those closest to him with threats of legal action and accusations of fraud in the fray.
Joey Salas, 42, endured another surgery Monday to prevent the amputation of his legs. But he says he’s more worried that the donations he’s receiving are getting into the wrong hands.
“I don’t understand why everybody’s coming at me like a rich old guy,” says Salas, who suffers from cerebral palsy.
Joey and his fiancée Francesca Olivera established a separate campaign, which reads:
Hello everyone, thank you for all of your prayers and support. As most of you are aware I was hit by a careless driver on January 10th. This person left me without a wheelchair and a left leg. I’m trying to get back to my normal routine so I appreciate everything that everybody has contributed. Hopefully I can achieve a full recovery and with your help I believe it’s possible. I can’t thank everyone enough this has been a traumatic experience but like everything just another obstacle to overcome.
Joey addressed his sister’s unauthorized account in an update. “It was deleted after I reported it was made without my consent,” he said on his GoFundMe page. “My immediate family fails to see me as a regular human being. They only see a wheelchair and hear my speech as a mental impairment. I am very capable to speak and think for myself.”
Joey’s effort has raised $7231, leaving him far short of his goal to replace his chair.
After the news of the unauthorized campaign reached the media, CBS11 reached out to GoFundMe, and the company provided them with this statement:
“We are in touch with the campaign organizers for both GoFundMe campaigns. Funds have not been withdrawn, and we are working with all parties to ensure Joey receives the funds raised on his behalf.”
Only Joey and Francesca say GoFundMe has yet to make it right. In a series of emails provided to Gofraudme, GoFundMe assures them they will resolve the issue with the unauthorized campaign. Kacey of the GoFundMe Trust and Safety Team writes on January 17:
We will be investigating this account and taking the appropriate action. We already placed a hold on the account, so that withdrawals would not be sent out to anyone other than a verified beneficiary, or without permission from you.
The hold was placed on the account before any withdrawals went out, so there is still an available balance of $19,526.88 in Angelica Dally’s account. Since the funds have not been withdrawn, we will need to continue working with the Campaign Organizer directly to ensure that the withdrawals are set up correctly. Please provide any updates to me directly, if you both come to an agreement for how the funds will be distributed. If she proves uncooperative, I would encourage you to reach out to law enforcement, as withholding donations can be considered a crime.
Joey says he never wanted to get the police involved and doesn’t want to get his sister in trouble, he only wants access to that money or donors to be refunded. A follow-up from GoFundMe on January 25 reads:
Thank you for getting back to me. I have added Francesca’s email to this conversation.
At this time, we have given the Campaign Organizer a final notice to let her know that if a resolution is not reached within 30 days, we may consider refunding the campaign. I’m hoping we can come to a better resolution for everyone since the campaign has received such amazing support.
The 30 days came and went, with no news from GoFundMe. Beginning February 26, Joey and Francesca attempted to reach the company, but say their repeated attempts have been met with radio silence.
On February 26, Francesca wrote:
Hello there, As it has been 30 days, we are under the impression Joey’s sister has not responded therefore have told people who inquired that the donations will be refunded. Can you confirm this because we want to inform all the media contacts that assisted in that campaign of the outcome.
Nothing. Joey chimes in on February 27:
This is Joey Salas I am concerned. I was under the impression after a month they would be refunded. Since my sister isn’t talking to me. My lawyer told me to check with you.
Nothing. Francesca tries again to reach GoFundMe on February 28:
Hello there, We are very concerned, we haven’t heard from anyone. We are really trying to get this clarified. We were informed ppl would be getting their donations refunded that were contributed to the wrongful account. Joey wants to make sure the right thing is done. His sister does not speak to him. He does not have any way to get her cooperation. Can someone contact us as soon as possible to confirm the status on the funds. Let us know if they will be refunded, if so when so he can clear his name. At this time it appears he benefitted from the unauthorized account and it is creating an issue with his family and benefits.
Still nothing. Remember, GoFundMe boasts a 5-Minute Support assurance.
At this point and frustrated by the total lack of communication from GoFundMe, Francesca reached out to us asking what can be done. Joey still doesn’t want to press charges against his sister, rather he just wants this to be made right and to get his much-needed wheelchair so he can get back to work. The funds from the campaign he has control of have so far been used toward medical bills and rehabilitation after the accident. All they are asking for now is an answer from GoFundMe.
“The guarantee says they will make sure it goes to the beneficiary but it doesn’t seem like they are going to,” Francesca told us. “Joey asked them to merge the accounts since he’s in complete control of the one set up with my page but they don’t seem to want to do that. They said they would most likely refund the money but won’t even confirm if they will be doing that either. Joey just wants people to get their money back but can’t get an answer from them.”
“We aren’t getting any help from the support team at GoFundMe,” she added.
Your move, GoFundMe.