Family alleges GoFundMe account fraud after $3,500 meant to pay for funeral disappeared

Posted at 6:24 PM, Jun 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-15 20:32:48-04

A Denver family alleges fraud in a GoFundMe account that was supposed to help pay funeral costs after a loved one's death.

Justin "JJ" Owens, 22, died in a motorcycle accident on Memorial day in Denver, and hundreds of brokenhearted friends attended the funeral services.

"He walked into a room and everybody noticed," said Kyle Grigsby, one of Owens' closest friends. "He was just a great guy who had a very caring heart."

To honor him, friends contributed to a GoFundMe account set up to pay for funeral expenses.

"All of us friends wanted to help foot that bill for them," said Ashley Marcell, a single mother who donated $100 to the account to show her support for the family. "Whether it was $5 or $500 dollars, everybody gave what they could."

Friends donated more than $3,500 to the fund.

But from the start, Marcell said, there were concerns about the man who set up the account, Justin Racine, who was an old high school friend.

"I have not received any of this money or seen Justin Racine since the night after my son's accident and death," said Carol Owens, JJ Owens' mother.

Carol Owens said GoFundMe records showed Racine withdrew money from the account several times, receiving more than $3,200.

"It was very easy for him to set up this bogus account with GoFundMe and then be able to take all the grieving friends' money, not to mention the grieving parents."

We went to Racine's house, where a house sitter confirmed he is traveling in Europe.

He told Grigsby he had put the money for the Owens' family under his doormat before he left.

"I don't believe that for one second," said Grigsby. "I went to look and of course nothing was there."

Wednesday would have been JJ's 23rd birthday and family members pointed out that instead of focusing on his life, they are dealing with another blow.  But they will fight back.

"So, this is for you, Justin," said Carol Owens. "Nobody is going to take advantage of my son. Nobody."

Racine has a criminal history that includes drug and theft charges.  He did not respond to our phone calls or messages.