Former One Fund Critic Indicted for Fraud
A woman known for criticizing the way the One Fund doled out money to victims of the Boston Marathon is now receiving criticism from the Fund herself as prosecutors allege that Joanna Leigh, 41, of Jamaica Plain faked her injuries to receive nearly $40,000 in benefits.
Leigh claims she suffered from a traumatic brain injury after the explosions at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon. She criticized the One Fund for giving out pay based on the length of a person’s stay in the hospital. Leigh says she waited to visit her doctor for several days after the event, and because she never stayed in a hospital overnight, she received a fraction of the amount given to those who spent longer in the hospital. In July 2013, she brought her complaints to NPR, among other news outlets:
[NPR’s TOVIA SMITH]: Thirty-nine-year-old Joanna Leigh says she was knocked off her feet by the bomb. She says she helped some other victims into an ambulance. But despite her headache, the ringing in her ears and burning in her eyes, she decided to wait to see her own doctor at an appointment already scheduled for two days later.
LEIGH: I was in a daze. And all I could think was I want to go home.
SMITH: […]She says she won’t be able to work for at least two years, and her medical bills are already much more than her $8,000 award. She’s one of a handful who want their cases reconsidered, but her lawyer, Jeff Stern, says it’s unclear how to even ask.
Leigh supplemented the $8,000 that the One Fund did award her with money from several other sources. The Boston Globe reports:
Leigh also received more than $18,000 from the state’s Victims of Violent Crime Compensation fund, $1,700 raised for her by children and faculty at a Mattapan middle school, and $9,000 from an online fund-raiser.
The online fundraiser, the Globe reports, was a website on GoFundMe written about Leigh in the third person but “appears to have been created and maintained using her e-mail address.” She also received treatment from a dermatology practice that offered free treatment to bombing victims. CBS Boston reports:
Authorities say most other victims were treated for scarring, but she sought and received treatment for facial redness, a condition which she had been treated for prior to the bombing.
In the indictment, investigators say they reviewed camera footage, witness testimony, and medical and financial records, and concluded that Leigh was there that day but was not injured. Leigh refused to turn over medical records to support her claim, they say. If indeed she committed fraud, this seems to be a case of flying way too close to the sun. Imagine receiving $8,000 you don’t deserve, intended for victims of a cruel tragedy, then complaining publicly that you didn’t receive enough. Investigators say her contradictions in these public accounts helped them bolster their case.
Leigh, though, maintains innocence. In an interview with the Globe, she says she is being targeted for her criticism. If that is the case, it’s a devastating act of retribution. Others who have been accused and convicted of defrauding the One Fund, have not received much forgiveness from the public.