Day care owner: GoFundMe page set up for motorcyclist arrested on OWI charges a ‘fraud’
BBB offers tips to avoid crowdfunding scams
POTOSI, Wis. — The owner of a Potosi day care hit by a man arrested on drunken biking charges said she’s “furious” that the motorcyclist now has a GoFundMe page set up asking the public for $2,000 to pay his medical bills.
That man is 27-year-old Riley D. Burton of Dubuque, Iowa.
In a news release, Grant County deputies said they were called Friday to Little Dreamers day care at 109 S. Main St. in Potosi on a report of a motorcycle crash and arrested Burton on suspicion of second-offense operating while intoxicated.
A GoFundMe page set up by a Dubuque woman on behalf of Burton omits that detail, something that upsets Little Dreamers owner Rachael Ramaker.
The page said Burton “has some serious medical bills along with the normal bills that he won’t be able to pay until he can return to work” after getting “in a motorcycle accident and (hitting) a brick wall.”
As of Wednesday night, the page remained online; it has raised $540 of its $2,000 goal.
“They’re making it seem like he was in a horrific accident, but (through) no fault of his own and that the medical bills are so high,” Ramaker said. “They’re not, it’s a complete lie.”
Ramaker said Little Dreamers’ wall isn’t even made of brick, suffered next to no damage, and noted the Sheriff’s Office report that characterized Burton’s injuries as “minor.” She said she wants the page removed from GoFundMe and sent a report to the company asking for it to be taken down.
“This is not a sob story,” she said. “This is blatantly lying.”
The GoFundMe page attracted negative public attention after being posted by the popular “Iowa County Confessions” Facebook page Tuesday .
Ramaker said the public should not have to pay the bills of someone accused of drunken driving charges.
“If you’re going to make those poor choices again, then you should have some of your own money to back you up,” Ramaker said. “Your friends and family and the community shouldn’t have to help you. Otherwise, you’re not going to learn anything.”
News 3 reached out to the woman who started the GoFundMe page, Courtney Ahlers, through a message to the fundraising page. After sending the message asking for a phone call to discuss the contents of the page, Burton himself messaged News 3 Reporter Chris Gothner through Facebook.
Burton never responded to our questions about the page’s purpose or its omission of the OWI arrest from its description.
Jim Dickson, the southwest regional director for the Better Business Bureau of Wisconsin, said there are a few things the public can do to avoid donating to a crowdfunding page that may be misrepresenting itself.
“You can’t say yes to everyone,” Dickson said. “If you can’t say yes to everyone, you want to do a little due diligence.”
First and foremost, he said, people should do their research and shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions to whoever’s asking for money.
“Transparency is important,” Dickson said. “You want to be able to ask as many questions as you’re comfortable with and a true, genuine person who’s asking for your help will be happy to answer those questions.”
Dickson said watch out for answers that seem vague or avoid the subject.
“If they’re not answering these questions, if it’s a vague and distant description of what the need is and confirmed by the fact that you don’t know the person, you just stay away,” he said.
Dickson said it’s best to donate only to people you know. If you don’t know the person, he said you should do extensive vetting on the page before giving it money. A simple Google search goes a long way, he said.
With any fundraising, Dickson said users should also avoid anyone asking for payment in an unusual form, like a money order.
Ultimately, if you have any doubt about a page’s legitimacy, Dickson said the best advice is to not donate at all.
News 3 reached out to GoFundMe requesting comment on this story. As of Wednesday night, we had not received a response.
Ramaker had closed Little Dreamers for good Friday, just before the crash, for personal reasons. She said she feels the crash is, perhaps, a sign that she made the right decision.
“My staff, my kids, we had closed and said our goodbyes and then that night someone decides to plow into the side of our building,” she said.
Online court records show no formal charges for Burton as of Wednesday night.
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