"I'm disgusted that someone would take advantage of a situation like this for their own benefit."
As she talked, Laura Leingang held her son, Lucas, who was born with a congenital heart condition. She shared the difficult news with an on-line parents group.
One parent, Kristal Lynn Seli, asked if she could set up a GoFundMe account for them.
"Us, in the middle of our chaos," said Leingang. "I was like ‘OK, that's fine.’"
Soon afterwards, Lucas had lifesaving heart surgery. Then about three weeks ago, she thanked Seli and asked for the money.
"It's been excuse after excuse so why we haven't been able to get the money from them," said Seli.
Then Seli blocked her on social media. So she contacted Seli's partner, Jennifer Byassee. Byassee offered up excuses, too. Finally Leingang contacted GoFundMe.
And their fraud investigators told her:
"Jennifer was listed as the beneficiary for all of the money," said Leingang.
Indeed, their records show Byassee withdrew the money in three increments in January, nearly $2,000.
"And we have seen zero funds," she said.
We did our own investigation. We found these mug shots of Byassee and Seli on line for serving time for fraud in other states.
"Know who you're giving money to is the main point," said Jim Fuda, longtime criminal investigator.
Fuda was asked how not to become a victim.
“Pay attention to who you're giving to and give to a reputable cause," said Fuda.
Leingang thought her friend was reputable.
"To pick on people who are going through something," said Leingang, her son on her lap. "It takes a pretty special breed of evil."
She has reported the case to the local authorities and the FBI. Both women appear to live in Kentucky.
She says she has seen other GoFundMe accounts Seli is sponsoring.
She can't help but wonder what's happening to that money, too.
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