JACKSON, MS (WDAM) - Attorney General Jim Hood announced the arrest of a Tupelo woman for posing as a highway patrol recruit online to raise money.
Investigators arrested Natasha Lesha Stephens, 30, on Friday after she attempted to raise over $1,000 on a GoFundMe page for what she described as required items for Mississippi Highway Patrol Cadet Class 62, which she claimed to have been accepted into, according to a press release from the AG's office.
To describe the fake campaign, Stephens wrote, "I have been blessed with the opportunity to become a part of something much higher than myself. I have been accepted in the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol Cadet Class 62 that begins this October. A list of required items has been given. Unfortunately I am unable to financially obtain those items. I am asking for help in order to be able to be apart of this opportunity. The cost is $1000. Any donations will be greatly appreciated. Thank you. Help spread the word!"
Stephens is charged with one felony count of wire and mail fraud and faces up to five years in prison.
"Our office has gotten this fraudulent page shut down," said General Hood. "Do not give money to this person, and if you already have, contact our office immediately."
GoFundMe reached out to WDAM with the following statement regarding the incident:
"It's 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 campaigns are misused, donors are fully protected and will get their money back. In the small handful of cases where misuse occurs, GoFundMe takes action to resolve the issue. In this case, the campaign has been removed from the platform, the user has been banned, and the single donation has been refunded." - GoFundMe spokesman Bobby Whithorne
The case was investigated by the AG's Consumer Protection Division, with assistance from the Tupelo Police Dept.