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Disabled Man Says Woman Stole Donations

A disabled man said Monday that he is the victim of a woman who has allegedly put him into thousands of dollars in cash after running off with cash that was donated for him.

Marc Friedenthal said he went deep into debt recently to purchase a modified van that’s able to transport him to work and get his family around. Prior to buying the van, Friedenthal said a fundraising site was set up for him by Melanie Odette on gofund.me to pay the $80,000 the van cost, but those donations didn’t get to him.

“She set up the fundraiser,” Friedenthal said.

Friedenthal said Odette set up “Marc’s Disabled Van Campaign” online to solicit donations. At one point, Marc said Odette presented him with a large check for the collected funds. However, the check turned out to be worthless.

“The numbers weren’t adding up because we know within the month of October, we had raised about $10,000,” Friedenthal said. “She gave me a check for $7,000. I deposited the check and the check did not clear. The check was no good.”

Marc’s wife went to Coral Gables Police and he called the FBI about the fundraising failure. Attorney Anthony Hevia is also trying to get to the bottom of how much more than the $7,000 is missing.

“It’s very sad, frankly, that this day and age something like this could happen where somebody sets out to do something positive and so quickly turns into root for personal gain,” Hevia said.

Marc said with the missing money, the online fundraising campaign had to be terminated. The website said it would cooperate with any law enforcement investigation into his fraud allegations.

“I don’t think too much of a person who does something like that, but we learn something new every day,” Marc said.

For her part, Odette said the allegations against her are ridiculous and she would have nothing further to say about the claims at this time.

Coral Gables Police told NBC 6’s Willard Shepard they are assigning a detective to see what happened on the website and the State Attorney’s fraud investigators will look into the check that was allegedly handed over, but bounced.

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