U.S. attorneys general investigate GoFundMe’s $10M seizure of donations to truckers

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REDWOOD CITY, CA – Crowd-sourcing platform GoFundMe is being investigated for fraud by multiple state attorney generals after claiming the Freedom Convoy 2022 fundraiser had violated its Terms of Service due to unlawful activity and threatened to seize millions of dollars.

Truckers have been engaged in a protest in downtown Ottawa for almost a week arguing against vaccine mandates, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calling for them to go home but ruling out deploying the army to remove them, according to Newsweek,

In a statement posted to the GoFundMe website on Friday, the company said:

“GoFundMe supports peaceful protests, and we believe that was the intention of the Freedom Convoy 2022 fundraiser when it was first created.

“We now have evidence from law enforcement that the previously peaceful demonstration has become an occupation, with police reports of violence and other unlawful activity.”

The Ottawa Police Department in Canada admitted to approaching GoFundMe to shut down the fundraiser, accusing the Freedom Convoy of holding “unlawful demonstrations”:

“We want to thank GoFundMe for listening to our concerns as a City and a police service. The decision to withhold funding for these unlawful demonstrations is an important step and we call on all crowdfunding sites to follow.”

No credible evidence was presented by either Ottawa police or GoFundMe to show the alleged “unlawful demonstrations.”

Despite the apparent lack of evidence, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson thanked GoFundMe for suspending the fundraiser:

“In light of the unlawful behavior that has transpired in the last few days, they have come to the right decision in support of our city and our residents.”

U.S. attorneys general investigate GoFundMe's M seizure of donations to truckers

The Mayor added that he hoped limiting the Freedom Convoy’s funding will “restrict their ability to remain in Ottawa.”

The GoFundMe fundraiser, which listed Tamara Lich as an organizer and B.J. Dichter as a “team member,” was created to support the truckers that have travelled across Canada to Ottawa to participate in a protest against COVID-19 restrictions.

GoFundMe originally said that it would refund or redirect to charities the vast majority of the $10 million raised by the fundraiser. In a statement, the company wrote:

“Organizers provided a clear distribution plan for the initial $1M that was released earlier this week and confirmed funds would be used only for participants who traveled to Ottawa to participate in a peaceful protest.

“Given how this situation has evolved, no further funds will be directly distributed to the Freedom Convoy organizers —we will work with organizers to send all remaining funds to credible and established charities chosen by the Freedom Convoy 2022 organizers and verified by GoFundMe.”

The company gave donors an opportunity to request a refund but had to do so by February 19, 2022.

Both the removal of the fundraiser and the seizure of funds caught the eye of both the public and several U.S. Attorneys General.

Ezra Levant, publisher of Canadian right-wing news site Rebel News, tweeted:

“At the request of Trudeau, @GoFundMe has just stolen $9,000,000 from the truckers. Rather than automatically refunding it to the donors, they say they’re going to give it to groups of their own choosing. What a windfall for Black Lives Matter, Greenpeace and Planned Parenthood!”

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Black Lives Matter has collected tens of millions of dollars from the crowdsourcing site over the last couple of years without action from GoFundMe, despite months of violence in the summer of 2020 following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Donald Trump Jr., former President Donald Trump’s eldest son, called for U.S. Attorneys General to investigate GoFundMe for shutting down the Freedom Convoy fundraiser and seizing the funds:

“All GOP Attorney Generals should be looking at this & helping to get people their $$$ back so it can be redirected to the truckers.

“Don’t let @gofundme scam you… call your AGs & let them know. GFM seems to have no problem finding BLM riots… peaceful truckers should be fine too.”

Tom Fitton, president of conservative activist group Judicial Watch, tweeted:

“State attorney generals and other relevant state officials should examine @GoFundMe’s $9 million shell game that victimized the Canadian truckers and their supporters who gave money in good faith.”

CJ Pearson, CEO of Right or Die, tweeted:

“I’m reaching out to every Republican Attorney General in America that I know and encouraging them to open a consumer protection investigation into the actions of GoFundMe.”

Pearson added that he spoke with the Georgia Attorney General, who promised to look into the seizure of funds:

“Just spoke with Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, who said he will have his team look into GoFundMe’s theft of millions of dollars from hardworking Americans supporting the Freedom Convoy.

“Good on him. This is how we fight back.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also ordered an investigation into the seizure:

West Virginia’s Attorney General Patrick Morrisey also noted GoFundMe’s alleged deceptive practices:

“#GoFundMe now won’t honor #FreedomConvoy donations and will instead redirect to other charities? In WV, organizations must not deceive donors and engage in deceptive advertising practices.

“If you’ve been victimized by a deceptive act or practice, let us know!”

Some people took to Twitter to urge SpaceX CEO Elon Musk to demand the return of thousands of dollars he donated to the fundraiser. Musk responded that the money was not his, but called GoFundMe “professional thieves.”

Musk also tweeted an article about the Capital Hill Occupied Protests (CHOP), which GoFundMe permitted to fundraise on their site. Underneath, he asked, “Double-standard?”

Yielding to the pressure from the public and facing multiple investigations, GoFundMe announced on Saturday that the company would refund all Freedom Convoy 2022 donations without requiring donors to make a refund request:

“The update we issued earlier (below) enabled all donors to get a refund and outlined a plan to distribute remaining funds to verified charities selected by the Freedom Convoy organizers. However, due to donor feedback, we are simplifying the process. We will automatically refund all contributions directly — donors do not need to submit a request. You can expect to see your refund within 7–10 business days.”

A new “official donation site” was set up on Friday on GiveSendGo, according to lawyer Keith Wilson, who represents the protest.

 

 

 

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