Lewistown woman accused of spending GoFundMe donations meant for her brother’s grandchildren

JUNIATA TERRACE, Mifflin County — A 27-year-old Lewistown woman is accused of setting up a GoFundMe page to benefit her brother’s grandchildren and keeping the money it raised, according to a criminal complaint.

Jennifer Mae Earnest, of the 100 block of Terrace Blvd., is charged with one count of theft by failure to make required deposition of funds received, according to Pennsylvania State Police. On August 22, her brother contacted police and accused her of setting up a GoFundMe page that listed him as the beneficiary. The page was created to raise funds to assist with the care of his twin grandchildren, who were hospitalized after their birth, police say.

The page was open from June 25 to August 13, and allegedly raised $347. But when Earnest’s brother asked her about the money, she allegedly told him she had used it for other purposes and did not have the money to give to him, as she had previously agreed to do.

Police interviewed Earnest on August 31. She allegedly admitted to setting up the page in her brother’s name and using the money raised for other purposes, instead of giving it to her brother.

Earnest has a preliminary hearing scheduled for October 4.

A GoFundMe spokesman, Bobby Whithorne said in a statement: “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. And if a campaign organizer does not deliver funds to the intended recipient, GoFundMe will donate the undelivered amount to the right person. In this case, we’re in touch with all parties and we’ll ensure the money gets to the right place.”