MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — People who donated to a man they believed was dying from cancer are furious.
Prosecutors charged Jeremiah Smith with theft by swindle. People raised money for the 37 year old after he told them he had Stage 4 terminal cancer.
“The Jeremiah I knew cared about everybody,” said event organizer Darlene Asher.
But she says Smith duped her, along with hundreds of others at Biffs Sports Bar in Spring Lake Park.
“Now that I look back, there should have been some red flags even then,” Asher said.
She organized a dart tournament as a fundraiser for the avid player. They raised more than $6,000. Smith told her he had cancer and his girlfriend was pregnant.
“We were like, ‘This baby is going to be born without his dad, we’ve got to do something,'” Asher said. “There was a lot of sacrifices made even that night to make sure we all came together for him.”
She said Smith stopped going to events with the darting community when people started asking questions.
Rice County Attorney John Fossum said his wife pushed him when she couldn’t find medical records to back up his cancer claims.
“They got search warrants to talk to the doctor, who said he in fact does not have cancer and he hasn’t had cancer,” Fossum said.
In all, people raised about $23,000 for Smith. According to the criminal complaint, he used the money for online games and marijuana, and to pay off some debt.
“It just blows my mind,” Asher said. “And is there going to be restitution? And I’m not saying we need our money back. For me, it’s about him getting what he has coming to him as far as punishment.”
Asher said beyond the fundraisers, some chipped in to help pay for Smith’s wedding. And others footed the bill for a trip to Las Vegas.
They wanted Smith to be able to play in one last dart tournament there before he died.
A GoFundMe representative released a statement on Smith’s use of the site:
“Campaigns with misuse make up up less than one tenth of one percent of all campaigns. With that said, there are instances where individuals try to take advantage of others’ generosity. GoFundMe has taken action and banned the individual and will provide refunds to all donors upon request. It is important to remember that our platform is backed by the GoFundMe Guarantee, which means that in the rare case that GoFundMe, law enforcement or a user finds that funds from a campaign are misused, donors are fully protected and will get refunded. For additional information on the GoFundMe Guarantee and how to request a refund, please visit: http://www.gofundme.com/guarantee.”