Sudbury·Audio

Alberta RCMP investigate after $24K taken from Sudbury GoFundMe trust

RCMP are investigating after donations to help the widow and two children of a dead Sudbury man were taken from an online crowdfunding account.

Money was meant to help widow and 2 kids of truck driver who died in July

Roger Bélanger, seen with his widow, Justine, and their two sons, Sébastien and Nikolas, died in a car crash on July 28. The money in a GoFundMe trust account set up for his family has gone missing. (Submitted: Belanger family)

RCMP are investigating after donations to help the widow and two children of a dead Sudbury man were taken from an online crowdfunding account.

Truck driver Roger Bélanger died in a car crash on July 28. Within days, a friend from Alberta offered to set up the GoFundMe.com campaign to raise money for the family the 29-year-old man left behind, Bélanger's sister said.

"Obviously we were in shock and we were grieving... so we never put much thought into it, except that people donated quickly and generously," Roxanne Bélanger said.

A link to the online trust appeared in Bélanger's obituary and, within a week, 176 people had donated to the memorial fund.

Although the fund collected more than $24,000, the family has yet to see any of that, Roxanne Bélanger said.

Family became concerned

The family began to grow suspicious, Roxanne Bélanger said, as time passed and the account administrator had not transferred the funds to Bélanger's wife, Justine. When the family spoke with staff at GoFundMe, they learned that the money was missing from the account.

Roxanne Bélanger said the company told them that the money was withdrawn in 22 instalments.

GoFundMe has since frozen the account and the Bélanger family are asking those who donated to it to ask for a refund through their credit card companies.

"It proves the point that it is too easy for people to take advantage of other people who are grieving," Roxanne Bélanger said. "There needs to be more safeguards in place when people set up these kinds of accounts."

Hard to monitor

It's not the first time that Alberta RCMP have investigated this type of complaint.

Const. Ashley Quallie said there are not enough safeguards to ensure that the right person receives the money when an online account gets set up.

"It's hard to know which ones are actual legitimate campaigns and that money is actually getting to the individuals who need it."

GoFundMe is helping police with the investigation, a spokeswoman said in an email to CBC News.

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