Jail time for GoFundMe theft

Woman took thousands raised to pay for friend’s funeral

Staff photo by DAMIEN FISHER Krystal Gentley, 28, talks to her attorney, Marc Gouthro, at her plea and sentencing hearing Friday in Hillsborough County Superior Court in Nashua.

NASHUA – The woman who stole close to $5,000 from the GoFundMe campaign meant to pay for her best friend’s funeral is heading to jail as part of a plea agreement reached Friday in Hillsborough County Superior Court.

Krystal Gentley, 28, changed her plea to guilty on one felony count of theft by unauthorized taking. Gentley cleaned out the GoFundMe campaign account that she set up to pay for expenses surrounding the funeral of her best friend, Tabitha L. Fauteux, the 26-year-old Hudson woman who died of an overdose in California after a long struggle with drug addiction.

“This was a horrific crime, and I think you know that,” Judge Charles Temple told Gentley.

When Fauteux died in November 2015, Gentley set up the GoFundMe campaign to raise money to transport the body of her best friend and to help the Fauteux family cover some of the funeral expenses. She told the family about the internet campaign, and many members of the Fauteux family and their friends contributed to the cause.

Within a couple of weeks, all of the more than $5,000 raised was gone. Gentley told Temple that she hit a hard financial situation soon after starting the campaign. Her husband had lost his job, she was behind on rent and utility payments, and she was worried about buying Christmas presents for her stepdaughter.

Assistant County Attorney Lisa Drescher told Temple that Gentley used the money for presents and to pay for a gastric bypass and a puppy. When the Fauteux family started asking her for the money to pay for their mounting expenses, Gentley lied, Drescher said.

Gentley’s biggest crime isn’t necessarily the theft of money, Drescher said, but the theft of trust.

“She took something from society as a whole, and that is basic trust,” Drescher said. “She is the person people worry about when they go on the internet.”

Sheila Fauteux, Tabitha Fauteux’s mother, wrote in a letter to the court that she wants to see Gentley go to jail for what she did to the family and to the memory of her daughter.

“You took advantage of our family at our weakest point,” Sheila Fauteux wrote. “I pray and hope there will be justice for your actions.”

Gentley’s plea agreement came as a capped plea, meaning both sides agreed to a maximum amount of jail time that could be imposed. In this case, the maximum was set at 12 months in jail. While Drescher asked for all 12 months, Gentley’s attorney, Marc Gouthro, asked for no jail time given the notoriety Gentley has gained and the impact it has had on her life.

Gentley is unemployed and homeless, he said. She lost her last job four weeks in when her co-workers discovered the story of the GoFundMe theft. She has been living with friends when she can, but has mostly been living in her car.

“I hope you sense the devastation that you caused,” Temple said.

Gentley expressed sorrow to the Fauteux for her actions in taking the money. She told the Fauteux family that she intended to pay back the money she took, but her life spiraled out of control.

“It’s too late to take back the choice I made,” she said.

Temple ordered Gentley to make restitution to the GoFundMe corporation. The company, upon learning about the theft, sent money to the Fauteux family to cover their loss. He also ordered Gentley to serve six months in jail, with another six months suspended for a period of five years. During that five years, whe will be on probation, and must pay the money back and remain on good behavior.

Gentley is also prohibited from using GoFundMe or other similar fundraising internet sites.