There isn’t much more painful in this world than a parent losing a child. So imagine if you were a parent grieving the loss of your one-year-old son only to discover that a total stranger stole his story and images in order to create a fake GoFundMe campaign in his name.
That is exactly what Nicole M Leahy of Lititz, PA is accused of doing. Police were contacted in April of 2016 by a person in Florida who said a fraudulent GoFundMe campaign had been created in December 2015, purporting to raise money for the burial of her son. The infant passed away shortly before the campaign was created.
The family of the little boy created their own GoFundMe campaign related to his illness and subsequent burial expenses; in April of 2016, his mother spotted a phony campaign using his likeness. She said she never authorized this second account, which raised approximately $500.
With help from the victim, cops tracked Nikki Leahy down on Facebook, interviewed her, and got her to admit that she did create the phony fundraising campaign. Leahy, however, told them that she purchased gift cards with the funds, which she said she sent to the victim’s family. She was unable to provide evidence confirming that claim, and there’s no way she would have known the boy’s family’s address anyway.
Cops executed a search warrant on GoFundMe, which showed Leahy as the beneficiary of the ill-gotten funds, and that she received $560.17 from various donors. She was then charged with theft by deception on December 13, 2016.
“You really have no way to verify to someone that would have that question whether it’s legitimate or not without doing a lot of research into it or reaching out to the people that actually have that,” said Detective Jevon Miller.