SHIRLEY – Police are pursuing criminal charges against a woman for allegedly creating fraudulent online fundraising pages.
Shirley Police Chief Samuel Santiago said the department submitted a complaint for charges against Michelle Westberry, of Shirley, in Ayer District Court on Jan. 13.
Santiago said the charges include larceny over $1,200 by a single scheme, larceny under $1,200 by a single scheme, attempted larceny by a single scheme, larceny under $1,200 by false pretenses, and larceny over $1,200 by false pretenses.
The two charges of larceny over $1,200 are felonies, while the three remaining charges are misdemeanors.
Santiago said on Jan. 14 that it’s “the court’s prerogative” as to whether the complaint will be accepted or denied and a hearing scheduled. He had no further comment on the case.
Police Sgt. Robert Romilly added Tuesday that if the complaint is processed by the court, a just-cause hearing, which would require the department and Westberry to present their arguments in front of Acting Clerk-Magistrate Jennifer Lennon, will be scheduled. Lennon will determine if there is just cause for the complaint to go forward or be denied.
Clerk’s Office Manager Debora Mickle said Wednesday that the department’s complaint is currently considered an application and is not available for public view until it is processed by that office and entered into the court’s system.
As of Wednesday, the application containing the charges was still not filed in the court’s system.
In a statement to the Nashoba Valley Voice received on Wednesday, Westberry, 40, said she did not spend any of the donated money “for any reason” and refunded all donors within 24 hours.
The charges stem from an investigation that started in December, when the department was tipped off to three fundraising pages on GoFundMe.com.
One page, started by a woman named Michelle Bomil, raised $700 to help a family that allegedly all had the coronavirus and needed help during the holiday season.
The two other pages were both titled “Mother diagnosed with cancer is in desperate need,” one founded by a woman named Kelley Linkus, who was said to have been diagnosed with breast cancer and needed to pay a percentage of the medical treatment required, while the other was founded by a woman named Kelley Linkis established on behalf of a friend named Michelle Noel, who was diagnosed with cervical cancer in October 2018. The latter page could no longer be found on the website.
In her statement, Westberry said: “I want to say I have been as cooperative as possible with the police and GoFundMe. GoFundMe investigated and closed their investigation without any fault on my part. According to the clerk magistrate at the Ayer District Court and other employees in the clerks office, no charges have been filed against me. The surgery that the GoFundMe was for is scheduled in February. The donations made were no longer a medical necessity. I chose to have GoFundMe refund all that donated.”
Madison Jones, GoFundMe’s northeast region spokesperson, confirmed on Jan. 7 that all of the people who donated to those pages were refunded. Jones would not confirm whether the investigation is ongoing or if Westberry will face any punishment from GoFundMe. She said there were no new updates with the investigation as of Tuesday.