SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — While the grand larceny case against the widow of an Onondaga County Sheriff’s Deputy drags on, so does the effort to return donations given to the family after the tragedy.
Karen Eames appeared in Onondaga County Criminal Court Thursday, March 23, where her defense attorney and the prosecution agreed to wait at least another month before settling the case.
Eames is accused of sharing the bank account to which Isaac Eames transferred more than $500,000 in 13 transactions from a sheriff’s office account he was responsible for managing. He ended up shooting his wife, killing his son and then himself.
After the tragedy, but before her alleged role in the crime was known, Karen Eames had collected more than $85,000 in donations from the community.
Once she was charged, many people began asking for their money back.
Last year, the Onondaga County District Attorney told NewsChannel 9 he was planning to take control of the account through Eames’ attorney with the intent of getting donations back to the contributors.
March 23, the DA said that never happened.
“GoFundMe has (the money),” said DA Bill Fitzpatrick, “and in some instances, Karen Eames has it.”
Eames’ defense attorney, Michael Vavonese, says any money she has, the “vast majority,” he says,” is being held in an account. His intent is to get it back to the right people.
GoFundMe hasn’t been helpful returning people’s money, according to the DA.
“GoFundMe is a California company,” said Fitzpatrick. “We’ve been dealing with their upper echelon. Their position is that quote ‘no fraud has been committed’ and, ergo, ‘we are not refunding the money.'”
Fitzpatrick says he’ll continue working to return the money.
“We’re going to be fighting on behalf of the people who want their money back,” said the DA.
Fitzpatrick says GoFundMe’s claim no fraud was committed relates to any money stolen by Eames, as accused, wasn’t related to the donations. If the money actually went to the intended reasons inspiring people to give it, there might not be a reason to refund it.
Fitzpatrick said: “The right thing to do is find out what happened to that money. If it went to the surviving child, if the money actually did go to funeral expenses, there’s some legitimacy to it.”
Responding to NewsChannel 9, a spokesperson for GoFundMe says: “Protecting the generosity of our community remains our top priority. We issued a full refund to ALL donors who submitted a claim within one year of their donation, as outlined in the GoFundMe Giving Guarantee.”
GoFundMe’s response adds another complexity: determining whose money’s been returned and whose hasn’t.