'An Appalling Case': A Woman Raised Over $40,000 for Australian Wildfire Relief But Donated Less Than $15 As pressure from donors mounted, the woman came forward and admitted to spending the money on luxury items for herself.

By Madeline Garfinkle

Key Takeaways

  • A woman raised about £34,000 ($43,000) for Australian bushfire victims but spent most of the funds on personal luxury items.
  • She fabricated donation evidence, blocked questioning donors, and only gave $12.80 to charities.

A woman set up an equestrian-themed fundraiser, ostensibly to aid wildlife and victims affected by the Australian bushfires in 2020. However, the funds that actually made it to the cause were slim — to say the least.

Kerry Palin, 27, who was living in Peterborough, England at the time, collected over £34,000 (about $43,000) from online donors and received contributions from more than 300 people who bid on auctioned items and or sent money directly via bank transfers or PayPal. However, Palin only made meager donations of $3.20 each to four charities, amounting to a mere $12.80 in total, the Cambridgeshire Constabulary in the UK said in a press release on Wednesday.

Palin's "fundraising" page had over 7,000 members.

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To legitimize her scheme, Palin doctored screenshots of the donations to make it seem as though she donated more than she actually did. When donors questioned her, Palin blocked them. As pressure mounted, she admitted spending the money on "luxury items," including a "treadmill, hair extensions, and a new rug."

"This was an appalling case of fraud where Palin not only deceived generous, kind-natured individuals but deprived the wildlife victims of the wildfires of thousands of pounds in donations, which would have made a huge difference to their lives," Sam Dane, a police officer who investigated the incident, said in a statement.

Palin pled guilty to fraud-related charges including fraud by false representation, concealing criminal property, and acquiring criminal property, and was sentenced to 16 months in prison on Friday.

"I would urge anyone wanting to donate money to good causes to be vigilant and, if in doubt, consider giving directly to the charity itself," Dane added.

Related: An 81-Year-Old Florida CEO Just Indicted for a $250 Million Ponzi Scheme Ran a Sprawling Senior Citizen Crime Ring

Madeline Garfinkle

Entrepreneur Staff

News Writer

Madeline Garfinkle is a News Writer at Entrepreneur.com. She is a graduate from Syracuse University, and received an MFA from Columbia University. 

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