A mother of three has sued a woman at the center of an online fundraising scandal that generated hundreds of thousands of dollars and involves allegations of misrepresentation in order to solicit donations to help her pay rent and avoid eviction.
Dasha Kelly started a GoFundMe campaign late last month asking for $2,000 to help keep a roof over the heads of herself and her “3 daughters” In Nevada. But a televised interview with CNN ultimately helped reveal that she is not the children’s biological mother, key information that she added retroactively to her GoFundMe page.
But by that point it was too late, according to Shadia Hilo, the biological mother of the three girls who on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against Kelly, the Las Vegas Review Journal reported.
Hilo is suing for the money donated to the GoFundMe because Kelly never had her permission to showcase her children “as props,” the lawsuit says in part.
“The three minor children…had been used as props to raise a large amount of money, all of which by rights should belong to them,” the lawsuit that was filed in Clark County District Court says.
Hilo’s attorney said “those funds rightly belong to those three children” and called that demand “the essence of the lawsuit.”
Kelly has been under fire since it was announced she is not the biological mother of the children. As a result, GoFundMe froze the fundraising campaign weeks after Kelly started it.
“We owe $1,900 for rent alone not including utilities. I will figure out utilities by pawning a few things. As you all know it is entirely still to [sic] hot to be homeless,” Kelly wrote. “My daughter’s [sic] are aged 5, 6, and 8. Please help with anything you can.”
The GoFundMe, entitled, “Help My Girls & I avoid eviction,” quickly went viral after CNN interviewed Kelly and invited attention that helped generate more than 10 times the amount the 32-year-old was seeking. The figure ballooned to more than $234,000 at one point.
During the interview, Kelly wept with happiness and expressed gratitude to Missouri Rep. Cori Bush, who has been at the forefront of the battle to cancel rent and stop evictions.
Last week, Kelly offered context to her relationship with the three young girls.
“The girls recognize me as a mother figure in their lives, but I am not their biological mother. My partner is the children’s father whom I do not live with, and I take care of these girls in my home for periods of time, and have for the last couple years,” Kelly wrote while saying that doesn’t change the nature of the urgency for her need for financial assistance. “I’ve loved these girls unconditionally, and have been out of the kindness of my heart. I treat them as my daughters, and care for them in this way.”
GoFundMe told the Washington Post it was giving all donors two weeks — until this coming Monday — to cancel their donations and ask for refunds, something that has clearly been happening.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the GoFundMe’s total was down to $163,381, which means more than $70,000 had been refunded to donors.
With less than a week left, even if more donors continue to take back their contributions, it would appear that Kelly is still on pace to eclipse the original amount for which she was asking.
However, Hilo’s lawsuit now places that prospect in jeopardy and leaves more questions about whether Kelly will be able to stave off eviction for herself and the girls.
The CNN reporter who originally interviewed Kelly said the young girls all called her “mom” but that Hilo, who showed their birth certificates for confirmation, was angry at the implication.
“Hilo is understandably upset that someone else claimed to be the mother of three of her children, children she also cares for,” CNN reporter Nick Watt told the Post.