Woman accused of stealing GoFundMe money held for court

Staff writer

A Franklin woman accused of stealing nearly $2,700 through a GoFundMe page she created for the victims of a house fire last year was held for court Wednesday.

Tori Smith, 22, appeared before district judge Andrew Fish for her preliminary hearing in Venango County Central Court.

Assistant District Attorney Kyle Peasley called the woman whose home burned down in February 2017 to testify.

The woman said she discovered Smith, her sister-in-law’s girlfriend, had set up the online fundraising campaign several hours after the house fire.

She said she asked Smith to mail the funds to her mother’s address, but the funds were never received.

The woman told defense attorney Robert Hartley that she had contacted the GoFundMe site about the funds and was told the money had been direct deposited into Smith’s bank account.

Franklin state police trooper Matthew Shiley testified about the investigation into the missing funds and said $2,676.74 had been raised from the GoFundMe campaign.

Subsequent search warrants were executed to gather information from the GoFundMe site, the WePay online payment service provider and MetaBank, an online banking system, Shiley said.

More than 20 transactions occurred between Feb. 8-19, 2017, in a MetaBank account connected to Smith, including ATM withdrawals, cell phone payments and car insurance payments, said Shiley. The amount totaled $2,295.72.

Shiley said Smith also admitted to setting up the GoFundMe page.

Hartley argued against a felony count of theft by unlawful taking, but Fish ruled that all charges be bound over for further proceedings in the Court of Common Pleas.

Smith is charged with felony counts of theft by unlawful taking, theft by deception, theft by failure to make required disposition of funds and identity theft.

She remains free on $25,000 unsecured bail.