Thursday, 21 October, 2021

TikToker denies mishandling money raised for homeless woman featured in his videos

A Tiktoker who raised more than $20,000 to help a homeless woman he called “Martha” has been accused of mishandling the funds he accepted on her behalf.

Read Choi, who has more than 3 million followers on TikTok, posted a video in June featuring him buying supplies for “a kind homeless woman who just got out of the ER after a head injury.”

He told viewers she had a number of items stolen from her, and when he’d first encountered her, she was on the ground unable to get up. Mr Choi finished the video saying he had started a GoFundMe to continue helping her.

The GoFundMe fundraising effort brought in more than $20,000 in donations and Mr Choi posted an update video on July 31 that showed him setting “Martha” up in a hotel room and buying her food, toiletries and other supplies.

However, many who followed the story did not feel the money had been properly accounted for.

Mr Choi released more videos claiming that he never said the money would be given to “Martha” upfront, and that he had decided to spend it for her instead because she “ has problems that are stereotypical of her age and her position,” he said.

He showed a number of receipts and empty boxes by way of evidence, although he said he was not going to offer a complete breakdown of what he’d spent. He accused “Martha” of forgetfulness and losing things, including phones, that he had bought for her.

His response did not satisfy viewers. Another TikToker, @dthekorean, released a video in which he appeared to speak to the woman Mr Choi said he had helped, whose name, he said, was actually “Marcia.” She said Mr Choi had not told her about the $20,000 that had been raised on her behalf.

The next day, Mr Choi refuted the claims in dthekorean’s video in another post and showed a purported interview with “Martha,” though she was not visible in the clip, leading to further confusion and accusations the conversation was staged.

In a statement to the Daily Dot, GoFundMe communications manager Jenny Perillo said the company required Mr Choi to complete a document that clearly stated how the funds would be used before any money was released to him.

“Our Trust & Safety team will also require additional documentation to ensure the funds are used for their stated purpose,” Ms Perillo told the Daily Dot. “If the funds are not used as stated in the written document, additional measures can be taken to protect donors and prevent misuse.”

The Independent has reached out to Mr Choi for comment.

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