Not an interview goes by that I’m not asked what got me interested in GoFundMe fraud.
It all started with this campaign started in early 2015, one which you may have seen circulating around.
The case of “Bart the Zombie Cat” was international news, with countless outlets running with the incredulous story of the cat being hit by a car and lovingly buried by his family when he was thought to be dead, then miraculously rising from his grave and returning home five days later. That, however, wasn’t what happened. It was a case of neglect, and later evidence surfaced to prove Bart’s owner knew he wasn’t dead at all, yet tossed him in shallow grave anyway.
At the time he supposedly “rose from the dead” after five days, Bart’s owner was unsuccessful in getting treatment at vet offices, and so brought him to the Humane Society of Tampa Bay for the veterinary care he could not afford. Bart has remained in their custody, on their dime, since that day in January of 2015.
When I attempted to report the fundraiser knowing Bart was in the care of the Humane Society of Tampa Bay and not his owner nor campaign organizer Dusty Albritton, GoFundMe responded with the following:
Thanks so much for contacting us today. You have reached the correct email address for contacting GoFundMe — email@example.com.
We take fraud complaints very seriously at GoFundMe and would first like to get some more information from you about this campaign.
1. Do you know the person who created the GoFundMe campaign? 2. Are you 100% sure the information presented is fraudulent or inaccurate?
My answers were simple: no I didn’t know her, but yes I was 100% sure the information presented in the campaign was fraudulent. The Humane Society of Tampa Bay paid for every penny of Bart’s care, per their own statements. A court battle ensued, and Albritton changed the campaign’s intent at some point to cover not his medical costs (which were being paid in full by HSTB via their Save-a-Pet fund) but to court costs to fight for him back.
Meaning, people who gave so that this neglected cat could receive medical care were now potentially funding a court battle to put him back in the hands of his very abusers.
Asked why they changed their mind about treating and then releasing Bart to his owner, HSTB said:
We received information that the owner was actually present when Bart was buried and there was a witness claiming the cat was still alive. In addition, we discovered that Bart was not brought to us immediately after he crawled out of the grave. He suffered from severe injuries for at least 2-4 days in the care of his owner before the medical treatment was sought; this is against the law.
Despite countless reports just like mine and even petitions to take down the campaign, it remains up to this day. Up, open, and still able to collect money. The last donation was 16 months ago. To date, it raised over $6685, not including donations that were refunded after donors were made aware of the scam Dusty was running.
As of September 14, 2016, the saga of ‘Bart the Zombie Cat’ has come to a wonderful conclusion. Writes the Humane Society of Tampa Bay:
After 20 months in our care, countless hours of paperwork, and millions of prayers and well-wishes from across the world, we finally have been legally granted ownership of Bart the Miracle Cat to the Humane Society of Tampa Bay! But he was only ours for a few hours as his foster family prepared to make his place in their home permanent. At 1:00pm Wednesday, September 14th at our shelter we celebrated the end of the custody battle and, consequently, his adoption, with a “Gotcha Day” party (“Gotcha Days” are adoption birthdays in the animal welfare world).
In January 2015 Bart became an internet sensation after being hit by a car, buried alive, and clawing his way out of his grave. He ended up at our animal hospital where we preformed extensive surgery to repair his broken jaw, remove his eye, and nurse him back to strength and health. The questionable circumstances surrounding his injuries led us to fight for his custody so that we could find him a loving home. To many he became known as “Zombie Cat” but to us he’s always been nothing short of a miracle. Not because we believe he rose from the dead, but because his gentle spirit, will to survive, and resilience in the face of extreme trauma embody all that we love and admire about animals. He is truly an ambassador for second chances and continues to inspire people the world over. We love you, Bart, always and forever.
Given this, GoFundMe would be wise to remove the fundraiser they should have removed, oh, 19 fucking months ago. These people stole over $6000 from generous people around the world, using GoFundMe to do it; GoFundMe was given countless opportunities to remedy this via hundreds if not thousands of fraud reports, yet they’ve chosen to do absolutely nothing.
Your move, guys.
And hey, happy life, Bart. You done alright for yourself, kid.