Richfield woman charged with stealing crowdfunding donations

Thursday,

A Richfield woman has been charged with stealing money from a crowdfunding account that was set up for a family who has suffered a personal loss, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Thursday.

Kimberly Ann Freese, 49, was charged with one count of theft. She will make her first appearance this afternoon.

According to the criminal complaint, on Dec.18, officers responded to a family residence in Richfield regarding a report of fundraising-drive fraud by Freese. Officers were told that the family had suffered a death in the family on Nov. 15 and had incurred thousands of dollars in related expenses. Within 24-hours after the death, Freese, an acquaintance of the family, contacted the victim via text message and offered to establish a fundraising campaign on the website GoFundMe.com to raise funds to help him.

Police learned that GoFundMe allows an individual to set up a campaign on behalf of a beneficiary. The site prompts the person to provide the beneficiary’s name and email and then sends the beneficiary an email, prompting the person to provide bank account information to specify where the donations should be distributed. Alternatively, a person setting up a campaign can direct GoFundMe to issue funds directing into their own bank account.

The victim reported that when Freese offered to start the fundraising campaign, she stated she would set it up and turn the “account” over to him when he was ready. Freese asked the victim for permission to advertise the news of the family’s financial need on his social media and he agreed. When Freese set up the GoFundMe page, she chose to have the funds dispersed directly to her own bank account. According to the complaint, the campaign raised $2,645 from 34 individuals who made donations, believing they were going to the victim’s family,

On Nov. 20, the victim texted Freese and asked if he could obtain the funds for pressing expenses. Freese told him it would take 5-7 days to get the money. On Nov. 29, at 2am, GoFundMe transferred $2,245 to Freese’s bank account, the amount available after processing fees were deducted. The victim requested the funds several more times and then learned on Dec. 4 from GoFundMe that Freese had received the money directly. Freese claimed it wasn’t available to her yet.

From Dec. 7 – 13, the victim repeatedly asked Freese for the money and told her that his family was stressed about their expenses. He also told Freese that GoFundMe had recommended reporting her to the police for failing to give them the money. She asked him not to, but did not give him the money.

The Richfield Police Department began investigating the case and on Jan. 17, Freese admitted that she had received the funds, but no longer had them. She claimed they went to a “court thing,” but was planning to make an arrangement with the victim to pay him.

The complaint states that Freese’s bank records show the deposit made from GoFundMe on Nov 30 and in the following weeks, there were approximately 50 purchases from Amazon,  i-Tunes, pizza deliveries and other places. On December 21, Freese’s account balance was $8.75.

As of March 15, Freese had not made any payment to the victim, nor attempted to arrangement payment.

Criminal Complaint (PDF)