A man turned to the web for help when his dog needed medical care - or at least that’s what his donors thought. Now police say a New Jersey man’s crowdfunding campaign was actually a cover for a terrible crime.
Police say the campaign for “Atlas’s Emergency Surgery,” which features a photo of a miserable-looking German Shepherd in a recovery collar, was created by Reid M. Herjo of Shamong, N.J. after he said his dog was run over by an all-terrain vehicle while out on a walk.
But police say it wasn’t true.
Instead, the Medford Township Police Department said Herjo beat the dog himself several times over the six weeks he owned him before the dog died “under suspicious circumstances.”
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Police first met Herjo when they stopped him for speeding on January 22, the Medford Township Police Department wrote on Facebook. Herjo allegedly told the officers he was driving Atlas to the vet because the dog had been struck with an ATV while on a walk.
Five days later, police say they got a tip that Herjo was lying. A few days after that, on Feb. 3, police say Atlas died amidst evidence of even more trauma
“Doing some research and looking into it, it was determined the dog’s injuries were not consistent with what was being alleged to have occurred and there was potential that the dog may have been beaten,” Lt. Arthur Waterman with the Medford Township Police Department told CBS Philly.
After investigating alongside state police, they discovered that Atlas had been injured on two previous occasions, once in December from “falling down stairs” and again in January from “falling down a hill.”
The most recent injuries required surgery for fractures and internal bleeding, police say. Meanwhile, the GoFundMe Herjo allegedly created for the dog’s “emergency surgery” raised $14,065 from 693 donors over 28 days before being shut down after the dog’s death.
On March 28, Herjo was charged with third degree animal cruelty and third degree theft by deception.
As for the goodhearted donors, a GoFundMe spokesperson told the Courier Post they will all receive a refund and Herjo will be banned from the platform.
“Misuse is extremely rare on our platform. Campaigns with misuse make up less than one tenth of one percent of all campaigns,” the spokesperson told the paper. “With that said, there are unfortunate and rare instances where people create campaigns with the intention to take advantage of others' generosity.”