NEW MADRID, Mo. (KFVS) - A woman is accused of stealing more than $5,000 from a fundraiser for a fire chief battling cancer.
Jennifer S. Newton, 45, was charged with felony stealing. Her bond was set at $1,000 cash only.
According to court documents, Newton created a Facebook fundraiser on July 26 for Jim Harris, the New Madrid fire chief, who was recently diagnosed with cancer. The fundraiser was to help Harris with medical bills and other financial burdens.
“I’m almost just speechless. I’m heartbroken. I’m angry,” said Anne LaValle when she learned that Newton allegedly stole the money intended for the New Madrid fire chief.
“You can’t be in your right mind if you take from someone that is already suffering through or battling cancer," said LaValle. There is just, there is no excuse for it.”
The fundraiser ended in August 2019 with a total of $7,432.
Court documents state Newton transferred a total of $2,010 to Jim Harris’ wife. On Aug. 27, after being questioned by his wife about the remaining money, Newton allegedly tried to send $5,180.49 to her via Paypal but it was declined by her bank.
Police Chief Joey Higgerson says Newton did give about 2,000 dollars to the Fire Chief’s family
“Mrs. Newton admitted that she knew that the money was not to be spent, that it was supposed to be giving to the family involved with the fundraiser,” said Higgerson.
Investigators got a subpoena for the bank where the account was created.
LaValle hopes Facebook can help recover what was lost.
“We’ve reached out to them to see if there is any fraud protection for the donors," LaValle. "We’re kind of in ongoing contact with Facebook to see if some of that money or all of that money can be refunded.”
LaValle has organized several community fundraisers to benefit the Fire Chief like this ‘Road Block’. She says the events raised more than 10 thousand dollars and went directly to the family.
“I just want to make sure everybody knows that they still need money coming in," said LaValle Regardless of what is going on right now, cancer is an ongoing battle. There are many, many more expenses that are going to have to be helped with.”
According to court documents, the account belonged to Newton’s mother and she was an authorized signer.
Investigators say after reviewing the account activity, they saw Facebook deposited $7,200.78 into the account between Aug. 5 and Aug. 23. They said there were several transactions on the account to different retailers, as well as to what is believed to be medical bills.
In an interview with Newton on Aug. 30, investigators said she admitted to spending the money that was deposited by Facebook, rather than transfer it to Harris. They said she admitted to spending the fundraiser money.