“It’s not Christmas yet, but the Grinch has come to town.”
That’s how the Polk County Sheriff’s Office announced the arrest this week of 32-year-old Amanda Brown.
The Florida woman is accused of setting up a fake GoFundMe account to raise money for three murder victims and then spending the $11,915 she gathered on herself, the agency said.
According to the police report, Brown solicited funds on behalf of three Frostproof men who were killed on a fishing trip in July.
“She used my name, used my son’s picture to gather money that these people thought they were giving to my family,” said Dottie Payton, the mother of one of the victims, told Florida’s news station CBS-17.
Payton, as well as other friends and family members, notified authorities of the now-defunct page called “Polk County Triple Homicide, Family Expenses” when they received no money from it. A PCSO investigation determined Brown had deposited all the contributors’ money raised into her own accounts.
“I think it’s sick,” Payton said. “I sure hope she had fun spending the money from deceased boys and taking from the families.”
The sheriff’s office said Brown admitted to creating the account soon after the tragedy and initially did it to help. When the money started rolling in, she began “spending it for personal use” such as paying off a water bill and shopping at Walmart.
Brown was charged with five counts of criminal use of personal ID, one count grand theft, one count misrepresentation of proceeds and one count fraud.
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“This woman exploited family members of three young men who were brutally murdered. While they were grieving, she used their personal information to solicit complete strangers to donate money to a fake GoFundMe account,” said the sheriff’s post. “It doesn’t get much lower than that.”
GoFundMe is reimbursing all of the donated funds back to the swindled donors.
Brown was taken into custody without incident and booked into the Polk County Jail.
A judge set bail at $28,000 on Thursday.