Sheriff: One charged with GoFundMe account fraud in Jones County

Sheriff: One charged with GoFundMe account fraud in Jones County

JONES COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - The Jones County Sheriff's Department has charged a suspect in a crowd sourcing fund fraud case.

After a car accident on Nov. 8, 2015, Brent Michele, 31 of Laurel, contacted the family of the accident victim with an interest in helping, according to a news release from the Jones County Sheriff's Department.

Michele set up a "GoFundMe" account that deposited funds directly into a local bank to help with the victim's medical expenses, through various fundraisers.

The efforts quickly amassed a total over $14,000.

"Unfortunately it turned out that not all the funds were not handed over or used for this family," Jones Sheriff Department Public Relations Officer Allyson Scott said.

Michele began acting suspicious about the money after he claimed his truck had been burglarized on Dec. 8, 2015, and he had in it $1,950 that he had withdrawn from the account for t-shirt expenses.

That amount was far short of the actual debt, according to the sheriff's department.

After a check of the account by the victim, several suspicious withdrawals were listed, all made by Michele.  It was also reported that Michele had told a friend he had been gambling on the night the money went missing.

Michele was charged with fraud by mail or other means of communication.

Upon hearing of the warrant for his arrest, Michele turned himself in to authorities at the Jones County Adult Detention Center.

Michele will have his initial appearance at Jones County Justice Court on Monday at 2 p.m.

Knotts said people should be careful when they donate to online accounts.

"You might want to do your research and make sure the money is going where it is said because when you go on Go-fund me there are thousands of frivolous accounts," Knotts said.