Funds frozen, inquiry begun on homeless student’s story

The woman who started a stunningly successful GoFundMe campaign for Fred Barley, the young man who said he rode his bike 50 miles to register for a Georgia college, said Wednesday night that she now has “multiple questions about Fred’s story.”

Consequently, GoFundMe officials said they have frozen the account of $184,000 raised for the young man, until the parties resolve their differences. If that doesn’t happen, officials said they will refund the money to donors.

This marks a stark turn in a story that had grabbed the hearts of people across the country — and prompted them to send in money — even as it illustrates the challenges of online fund-raising campaigns.

Neither Barley nor Casey Blaney, the Barnesville area woman who took up his cause, could be reached for comment last night on this development.

Barley had told people that he was homeless when he embarked on a 6-hour bicycle ride about two weeks ago from Conyers to Barnesville to register for his second semester at Gordon State College. When the story emerged on the Internet that police officers found him living in a tent on the campus, and spent their own money to put him up in a motel for days, people embraced a feel-good story about cops helping a young black man.

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Blaney started the GoFundMe campaign that received some 5,700 donations over 12 days. Blaney posted Facebook messages and even videos of a thankful Barley.

But days ago, the bond between them strained when the 19-year-old posted a message on Facebook saying he objected to her plans to place the money in a trust. He indicated that he would only place the money in a trust if he could choose the attorney and the trustee.

On Wednesday evening, Blaney herself posted the following on the Facebook page called Success For Fred.

“Unfortunately, multiple questions have been raised about Fred’s story,” she wrote. “We’ve received conflicting information about his initial story. … We’ve asked for the campaign to be reviewed.”

It is unclear exactly what questions she said have been raised.

A GoFundMe spokesman, Bobby Whithorne, said in a statement that “the funds raised are placed on hold and cannot be withdrawn until all the questions have been answered. … If they are not, we will refund the donors.”

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