“17 Year Veteran of the United States Marine Corps, 2 tours in Afghanistan, discharged Honorably due to injuries sustained overseas tragically lost his first born son suddenly two months ago. The high costs of the funeral have tapped his finances and he is at risk for eviction and homelessness,” begins the GoFundMe started by Alex Vavas to benefit a fellow Marine. What the campaign fails to mention, however, is that the veteran in question was never deployed according to his ex-wife, and that he never paid a penny toward his son’s funeral.
Let’s go back. Operation November Rain was a joint effort by the Jacksonville Police Department and Onslow County Sheriffs Office in North Carolina to combat drug abuse in their shared jurisdictions at its root. Among those caught up in their net in November of 2017, one James Lee Steen.
James Lee Steen, 41, of Goss Lane in Swansboro: two counts of possession with intent to manufacture, sell, or deliver a schedule II controlled substance; two counts of sell a schedule II controlled substance; two counts of deliver a schedule II controlled substance; two counts of maintain a dwelling for a schedule II controlled substance; and two counts of possession of drug paraphernalia. Bond $30,000.
It’s worth mentioning here that yours truly is a card-carrying libertarian (small L) and has strong feelings about the “war on drugs,” however those who peddle poison to those who have gone beyond exercising their right to exist without infringement are beyond reproach and deserve a special spot in H-E-double-hockey-sticks or whatever you might believe in. On that topic…
What Alex Vavas didn’t know when he created a GoFundMe for what he believed to be a brother in need was that when James Steen’s son David died of a drug overdose at 19 a month before the task force arrested him, James did not contribute at all toward the funeral. Though Steen set up two GoFundMes, his ex says she and her brother — who was deployed to Afghanistan at the time of the boy’s death last year — covered the cost of the funeral.
Campaign still live, archived here.
This campaign is live as well, it looks like he changed intent after his son died and also asked for $10k. Archived here.
It was the story about his son’s death that moved Alex Vavas to help a brother in need. However, after over $2k was raised to benefit Steen, he learned the truth. “He is an embarrassment to the Marine Corps, and himself for utilizing his sons death for financial gain,” said Vavas. It is unclear what will happen to the money raised for Steen, which Vavas transferred to Steen before he was made aware of Steen’s deception. If GoFundMe were to refund donors, it’s possible that Vavas would be the one to “pay,” since the money was deposited into his account and later transferred by Venmo to Steen.
Calls made to James Lee Steen Sr’s phone of record were not returned. According to state records, he is due back in court on June 13 on multiple drug charges.