Woman Sentenced for Stealing GoFundMe Donations for Burn Victim

Woman Sentenced for Stealing GoFundMe Donations for Burn Victim March 21, 2019

A Kansas woman was sentenced to one year of probation after she stole over $8,000.00 from a GoFundMe that she set up for a friend’s child. After her friend’s daughter suffered severe burns, Cinthia Davis offered to set up a GoFundMe account to help the family pay for bills. When the family asked for the money, Davis told them all of the money was gone.

In 2015, Halley Mae Cooper was playing outside in a fort with her brother. Two boys inside of the fort were smoking. When Halley attempted to leave the fort to avoid the smoke, one of the boys set her dress on fire. She suffered third-degree burns on 17% of her body.

Because the burns were so severe, Halley remained hospitalized for 18 days. During the hospitalization, her mother never left her side. Wendi Bernstorf was overwhelmed emotionally and financially while she helped her daughter recover.

A friend of Wendi’s, Cinthia Davis, offered to set up a GoFundMe account to help the family. She created the page and 124 people donated over $8,100 in less than 60 days. When Wendi asked her friend for the money, Davis told her that all of the money was gone.

After realizing that Davis stole the money that was intended for her family, Wendi filed a police report for the theft. During the investigation, police determined that Davis withdrew all of the funds within 60 days of the start of the fundraiser.

Davis and her husband Matt Kerr used the money to pay bills, go out to eat, and buy items at Walmart, Kmart, and pawn shops. She gave Wendi only a few hundred dollars from the fundraiser.

Police arrested both Davis and Kerr for their roles in the theft of the money. Kerr pleaded guilty in 2018 and received probation. Davis went to trial, and a jury convicted her in January. At her sentencing, she received a year of probation for stealing the money from her friend in need. Also, the court ordered she and her husband pay restitution to the family.

Davis’ crime is utterly deplorable on so many levels. She had a friend in an extremely vulnerable position and used that vulnerability to prey on her. By setting up the fraudulent GoFundMe, she lied to donors and the family. There are no details if the GoFundMe account was reported for fraud.

While a little girl laid in a hospital with third-degree burns, she went out to eat and bought herself gifts with stolen money. The family was unable to work following the accident and were unable to pay bills. She used their money to pay her own utility bills.

She was convicted for the theft, but she only received a year of probation. How is this even possible? According to Kansas laws, theft over $1,000.00 is considered a level 9 felony. Sentencing guidelines for the charge are 5-7 months in prison. Why did the judge only give her one-year probation?

A sentence of a year of probation hardly matches the evil of this crime. The judge should be ashamed of himself for giving her a slap on the wrist.


*Katie Joy is a columnist and hosts Without A Crystal Ball on Patheos Non-Religious Channel. She writes articles on parenting, disability advocacy, debunking pseudoscience, atheism, and crimes against women and children.

She co-hosts the YouTube show, “The Smoking Nun,” with Kyle Curtis. The show airs weekly and tackles pseudoscience, current events, and crime stories.

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