Coal Township police to probe fire victim fundraiser
COAL TOWNSHIP — Police are investigating claims that donations raised online following a deadly fire in Shamokin were never turned over to the victims.
Victoria Fortune, 25, of 1625 Pulaski Ave., Coal Township, launched a fundraising campaign on the crowdfunding website gofundme.com on Dec. 10, the day 13-year-old Missy Pangburn died inside her bedroom at 5 S. Rock St.
The fire destroyed her family’s home and four neighboring homes.
According to Pangburn’s stepfather, Joseph “Wes” Vecchio, Fortune used the tragedy to raise money but never gave any to the victims.
Coal Township Detective Jeffrey Brennan asks that anyone who made a donation to the fire victims through gofundme.com contact him at 570-644-0333. He issued a press release Monday about the investigation, but Fortune is not named in it.
Fortune closed the online account and the Web page was deleted. However, a cached version can be viewed through a Google search. It asks for donations not just for Pangburn’s family but for all the victims. The page shows that $705 from 21 donors was raised as of Jan. 19. Some gave $20 or $25. At least one person gave $100.
Vecchio told The News-Item for a story published Saturday that Fortune visited the family shortly after the fire and said she’d do what she could to help. That never happened, he said, and Fortune has since blocked Pangburn’s mother, Barbara Wiley, on Facebook after being confronted about the fundraiser.
Fortune denied any wrongdoing in an interview last week but could not explain where the money went. She pledged to repay the family.
Vecchio initially contacted Shamokin police about the allegations. He said he’s not concerned about not receiving the money, rather, he is upset because he believes Fortune deceived donors and benefited from the death of his stepdaughter.