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Minnesota Woman Must Pay Back $120,000 From Castile Fundraiser

The Minnesota attorney general's office found that most of the money Pamela Fergus raised in honor of Philandro Castile was not used for its intended purpose: paying off student lunch debt. A fundraiser called "Philando Feeds the Children" was named in honor of Philando Castile, a 32-year-old Black cafeteria worker who was killed by police in 2016. Fergus donated $80,000 to Saint Paul Public Schools but did not account for $120,000, which she must pay back over the next two years, reports the New York Times, . The settlement calls for her to pay the state $400 each month until 2024. She will then be held accountable for the remaining $111,000. “You should put that money where it’s supposed to go,” said Castile's mother, Valerie Castile. “These things are not for your personal gain. It’s not right.”

The fundraiser exceeded its original goal of $5,000 due to national racial justice activism. Donations quickly poured in, and over $200,000 was deposited into Fergus's personal bank account. She then changed the goal to $999,999, repeatedly saying it would be used for student lunch debt. Lloyd Hitoshi Mayer, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, warned of the pitfalls of online fundraising. “The thing that makes crowdfunding particularly dangerous is the speed with which you can set up a campaign and the speed with which a lot of money can flow in if the story resonates,” he said. Mayer warns that non-profits can quickly be overwhelmed with large amounts of money which they do not know how to manage. The attorney general's office says the money paid back to them from the settlement will be used for its original purpose.