28-year-old Retina Reyellen LaValla is currently fighting two felony theft charges after prosecutors say she helped herself to some of the nearly $28,000 raised via a GoFundMe page she set up for the families of three missing boaters.
Interestingly, her lawyer — Alan Bradley Fish — says that the case should be dismissed as she didn’t technically have to hand over any of the money. Yup, you read that right. If you ever see a GoFundMe page from Mr. Fish, you should probably avoid it like the plague.
Fish also argued both of LaValla’s charges should be dismissed because she did not purposefully raise the money with the intention of stealing it. Also, like many national charities, LaValla did not have to turn over all of the money to the families but could instead keep some to pay for her expenses in managing the fundraiser, he said.
You know how, like, the Red Cross and the Humane Society of the United States and the ASPCA and basically any large charity uses a portion of donations for things like free t-shirts and junk mail? This guy is actually arguing that his client raising money for these guys and keeping some for herself was no different. What a defense. “But Your Honor, I’m all charitable like the Red Cross!”
“(LaValla) singlehandedly raised and disbursed thousands of dollars for a cause,” Fish said. “That is undisputed.”
Fish argued LaValla didn’t raise the money with an ulterior motive, and she “ultimately gave 100 percent of funds she raised” to the families.
In fact, she didn’t have to give 100 percent over, he continued, and the idea that all of the money had to be split three ways among the families is “arbitrary,” he said.
“In fact, Retina LaValla made no promises whatsoever as to what amount of money would be turned over, what percentage would be given to any particular person or family, when it would be turned over, nor what she would be keeping, borrowing, using and replacing, or otherwise for herself for her time, efforts and expenses,” Fish said.
Yeah, OK. Except the fundraiser wasn’t “Money for Retina LaValla to do with as she pleases,” it was specifically intended for the families of the missing boaters. If Retina LaValla wanted to raise money for herself, she could have done so and wouldn’t be in this situation. Of course, it’s doubtful generous strangers would have coughed up nearly $28,000 just for the heck of it.
Interestingly, Fish did bring up one good point: GoFundMe takes a 5% cut from donations made. So how is that any different from, say, someone like Retina LaValla skimming a few bucks off the top for herself?
It’s also worth noting, as Fish stated, that LaValla did eventually hand over all the money, after cops got involved and thanks to an emergency loan from her dad. Given that fact, what do you think about the charges? Too much, or just enough?