Alberta cyclist who claimed to be injured by barbed wire, started GoFundMe facing charges
An Alberta cyclist that claimed to have been clothes-lined on a trail in West Bragg Creek and later started a GoFundMe campaign is now facing charges, RCMP say.
Cyclists posted messages earlier this month questioning the allegations after a photo surfaced of the Calgary man with what appeared to be a cut across his neck.
The cyclist told police he’d been standing up on his bike, riding downhill when head-level barbed wire hit him in the clavicle/neck area, knocking him to the ground. He claimed his bike had also been stolen.
He started a GoFundMe account, where he said he wanted to raise money to help with medical bills and also to donate cameras to the park to improve safety.
The next day, that GoFundMe account was removed and the funds were put on hold as police launched an investigation into whether the claims were true.
Stelios Psaroudakis is now facing charges of fraud under $5,000 and public mischief. He turned himself in to the Cochrane RCMP detachment at 3 p.m. on Friday.
WATCH: RCMP Insp. Lauren Weare details the resources that went into investigating allegations of barbed wire on bike trails near Bragg Creek.
RCMP said investigators spoke with other cyclists, residents in the area and Psaroudakis himself. Through those interviews, police determined the incident with the barbed wire “never took place.”
“Our investigation has concluded that Mr. Psaroudakis was riding an all-terrain vehicle and was involved in an incident at another location at another time, and was not riding a bicycle,” Insp. Lauren Weare said.
Weare added that Psaroukadis did hit barbed wire while riding, but it was part of a fence meant to contain livestock.
All started with a ‘white lie’
Psaroudakis told Global News Friday afternoon, before turning himself in, the whole thing started with a “white lie.”
Psaroudakis said he was riding with a friend in West Bragg Creek, however he was riding his friend’s three-wheeler trike, not a bicycle. The trike wouldn’t start, and when he tried to push-start it, he lost control going down a hill and hit the barbed wire.
He said when doctors at the hospital asked what happened, he said he’d been riding a bike. When they clarified, asking, ‘You were on a bike?’ he said, ‘Yes,’ to prevent his friend from getting in trouble, as he didn’t have insurance or registration for the trike.
“It started from a little white lie, because I didn’t want to get my friend involved in trouble, because he had no insurance, no registration, no nothing on this, so it’s illegal to be driving this,” Psaroudakis said.
Creating the GoFundMe came from wanting to turn his tragedy into something good, Psaroudakis said. He said he intended to use the money for deer cams for the area, adding that trip wire does injure people in trails in the area.
“It’s just one white lie turned into another and now I’m the one getting charged and I’m the one that got hurt.
“I try to do something good and now everybody’s calling me a liar, calling me a fraudster. I’m none of those things, I just wanted to help.”
Banned from GoFundMe
In an emailed statement from GoFundMe, the organization said all funds that were donated to Psaroudakis’ campaign have been refunded.
“Stelios Psaroudakis has also been banned from using the GoFundMe platform for any future campaigns,” GoFundMe communication manager Rachel Hollis said in the statement.
She added that GoFundMe has proactive measures in place to prevent misuse of the site, which she said happens with less than one per cent of all campaigns.
“Fraud, whether it takes place online or offline, is against the law. If it takes place online, GoFundMe donors are protected by the GoFundMe guarantee and their donations are refunded. Our team also works with law enforcement to report issues and assists them in investigations.”
The RCMP urged people Friday to research crowd-funding sites before donating money.
“These things, I think in general, are a very low percentage, but to make sure that folks, when they are wanting to contribute, that they do a little bit of homework to make sure that the funds they may be wanting to offer to some of these asks are in fact legitimate,” Weare said.
WATCH: RCMP Insp. Lauren Weare urges people to do their homework when looking at donating to crowd-funding sites
Psaroudakis was released from custody and is scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 22.
— With files from Global’s Erika Tucker
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