WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. - Officials from GoFundMe have vowed to repay the Westchester County well-wishers that donated more than $50,000 to a woman misrepresenting the fact that she had cancer.
Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim announced on Friday that 38-year-old Vedoutie Hoobraj - also known as Shivonie Deokaran - has been arrested in Florida after allegedly engaging in a scheme to solicit donations for two years in Westchester by representing that she had terminal cancer and required money for living and medical expenses.
Hoobraj obtained donations and checks through two GoFundMe fundraising campaigns that were set up in 2014 and 2015, according to Kim. Those pages stated she had 18 months to live and her family was suffering financial burden from chemotherapy treatments and other medical and living expenses. Hoobraj publicized her alleged struggles online through email and social media.
In total, Kim said that Hoobraj received more than $50,000 from more than 300 people in Ardsley and elsewhere. Between October 2014 and December 2015, Hoobraj transferred $32,600 from an Ohio bank account operated by the GoFundMe payment processor vendor to Hoobraj’s personal bank account. Additionally, in November 2015, Hoobraj deposited two donation checks totaling nearly $20,000 from the Student Activity Fund of Ardsley High School.
As a result, GoFundMe spokesperson Bobby Whithorne offered an apology to donors and noted that the organization plans to pay back any misappropriated funds.
“First, our platform is backed by the GoFundMe Guarantee, which means that in the rare case that GoFundMe, law enforcement or a user finds campaigns are misused, donors are fully protected and will get their money back,” he said in a statement following Hoobraj’s arrest. Additionally, it’s important to remember that misuse is extremely rare on our platform. Campaigns with misuse make up less than one tenth of one percent of all campaigns.
“With that said, there are unfortunate and rare instances where people create campaigns with the intention to take advantage of others’ generosity. In the small handful of cases where misuse occurs, GoFundMe takes action to resolve the issue. The user has been banned and GoFundMe will offer refunds to all GoFundMe donors.”
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.