Police: Woman Used Boy’s Heart Condition To Scam Others For Money
HARRISVILLE, Utah – Police have now identified a woman they said used a story she found on GoFundMe.com to try and get others to give her cash donations that she kept for herself.
Detectives from the Harrisville Police Department circulated surveillance images of the woman inside an area store over the weekend. Chief Max Jackson said it only took citizens about 45 minutes to identify her as Melissa White.
“At this point in time, we’re treating it as a full-blown communications fraud,” Jackson said. “She has made some admissions. We’re checking on some of the things she’s told us.”
The flyers police said White used told of 6-year-old Teagan Stewart’s need for a heart transplant. The supposed fundraiser described a raffle where donors could win various prizes. Teagan’s mother, Amanda Stewart, said a friend alerted her over the weekend. Teagan is actually now 8 years old, and Stewart said with the help of a miracle drug, his need for a new heart has been delayed.
“He’s actually doing really well. His heart his doing good,” Stewart said. “It’s just heartbreaking that somebody had to go to that extent.”
Stewart removed the GoFundMe page, created in 2015, that she believed White used to get her son’s story and pictures for the flyer.
Despite Teagan’s condition, Stewart said he prefers to live as any other kid.
“He’s a rambunctious 8-year-old, running around, living life to the fullest,” Stewart said. “He likes to be normal. He doesn’t like to be treated any different.”
Being normal however, wasn’t always easy for Teagan.
“When he was 24 hours old, we were told that he had hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which means he was born with half a heart,” Stewart explained. “At five days old, he had his first open-heart surgery, and then at four months, he had a second open-heart surgery. At four years old, he had a third open-heart surgery.”
Stewart said her family was not looking to raise funds at the moment, but likely will at an undetermined future time when Teagan actually needs to seek out a new heart.
“They read his story. That’s the thing that’s sad,” Stewart said. “They knew the pain he’s gone through, and now they’re making money off of it.”
Jackson said White distributed flyers, asking for cash donations in Weber, Davis and Salt Lake Counties.
Detectives have asked any potential victims who may have given money to contact their local law enforcement agency.
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