Greene County woman talks about allegedly stolen GoFundMe donations

By Gary Scott on July 18, 2015 at 11:01am

With more and more people using online crowdfunding, a White Hall woman is sharing a lesson of caution about who controls the funding.

Michelle Wiley and her husband Dustin of White Hall were blindsided with terrible news in March of this year- Dustin had Stage 4 colon cancer. With the bills expected to pile up from treatment, Wiley received what she thought was a helping hand from someone she considered her best friend, Bernice Gauges of Roodhouse.

Gauges set up a GoFundMe account to help the Wileys. Nearly $1,500 was donated. But Gauges was arrested several weeks ago and charged with seven counts of theft by deception after not forwarding the donations.

Wiley went to the Greene County Sheriff’s Department after she says Gauges told her multiple times that GoFundMe wasn’t giving her the money.

“The GoFundMe guy did a three-way email and said, ‘Hey, the guy that you were supposedly raising this money for has said that he’s not received the money, are you having trouble getting in and out of your account that we could deposit it into?’” says Wiley.

“She says that a collection agency withdrew it from her prepaid Wal-Mart card that it was to be deposited into, and the sheriff’s office kept saying they can’t do that without having a warrant to take the money out of your account, and she never provided proof,” she adds.

Gauges apparently set up the account in her own name. Greene County Sheriff Rob McMillen says the way to ensure that you receive money through a crowdfund effort is to put your name on the account.

“The money will come directly to them rather than go to a third person or a third party, and that’s what happened in this case- people donated money in the gentleman’s name, and the money that was sent from GoFundMe, the money that was collected, went to a third person that basically extorted them for the money,” says McMillen.

“I’m not sure how it would work, but I’m sure whether you set it up yourself or have someone else set it up, somehow have the money that gets collected be sent directly to you.”

Gauges is due in court on August 3rd. According to Wiley, GoFundMe officials informed her she’d have to sue Gauges to get the money back. She says she’ll wait for her criminal case to proceed before taking action, but that she does plan to file litigation.

“My husband’s a veteran. We have to drive down to St. Louis weekly for his treatments,” she says. “It’s just been so dang stressful on both of us.”