Weeks after a Haitian American couple was kidnapped during a trip to the island, fake crowdfunding campaigns have emerged.
The profiles popped up after news about the family needing to raise $400,000 made the news.
Earlier in the month, Abigail Toussaint, and Jean-Dickens Toussaint, both 33, had traveled to Haiti to visit ailing family members and to enjoy this year’s Rara festival. On March 18, while riding on a local bus, the husband and wife were abducted by what authorities believe were gang members.
According to The Associated Press, the gangs noticed suitcases on the bus and identified their marks. Then they forced the bus to stop as it tried to cross Martissant, a dangerous enclave at the southern exit of Port-au-Prince.
“They stopped the bus at a stop and then asked for Americans to get off the bus and their escorts off the bus, and then they took them,” Jean-Dickens’ niece said in an interview with Local 10.
The area is known for its violent gangs with a surge since 2021 when the country’s President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated. In fact, the section is so dangerous some Haitians and tourists have opted to book air travel rather than risk being attacked by gang members, the Haitian Times reports.
In addition to the Toussaints, whose 1-year-old child is still in the United States with family members, another person was snatched off the bus during the kidnapping.
The kidnappers contacted the families and demanded $200,000 per person for the release of their loved ones — totaling, for the Toussaint family, close to half a million dollars.
“How are we ever going to come up with that money?” Nikese Toussaint, the sister to Jean-Dickens, said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Originally, the family thought of doing a campaign with Change.org, however, some of the family’s elders were against raising money that way because it would be too public.
Christie tweeted, “We had to close the petition out of respect of my aunt’s dad’s wishes.”
“He doesn’t want the kidnappers to think that the money used to promote the petition is coming to our family (which its not obvi) but you know not to make it worse. Thank you for sharing it tho!” she continued.
Despite the family being super cautious about online campaigns, scammers reportedly have hopped on the story and exploited the news cycle and all of the people who want to help.
Christie took to social media to alert the family of the fake GoFundMe accounts popping up on the internet. The caption read, “HI WE DON’T HAVE A GOFUNDME!!! IDK WHO STARTED THAT BUT HOLD ON TO YOUR MONEY PLEASE!!! NONE OF US CAME TO A DECISION ON IF WE EVEN WOULD!!!”
A graphic stated, “If you see a Gofundme or ANY monetary services, please REPORT IT.”
“The families have not created a Gofundme or platform to receive monetary services. If you find any, IT IS A SCAM, Please be aware!”
“AND TO WHOEVER DID THAT UR A SICK PERSON!!! WHO DOES THAT???” she also wrote.
The gang has communicated with the family about the release, including allowing Jean-Dickens to speak a couple of times as proof of life.
At first, the kidnappers asked for $6,000 for the return of the two.
In desperation, the family gave $6,000 to someone they thought they could trust to give to the gang as a payment for the ransom. However, the money disappeared and the ransom jumped up drastically. The family believes this was another scam.
“Once we sent that money, they tried to up the price to $200,000 per person, and we don’t have that type of money,” Christie said.
“That’s when we said, ‘Uh, oh, we have to get help. We didn’t know what to do at that point. We don’t want to take any more risks,” Nikese said, adding the FBI has been contacted to help with securing the two loved ones.
The family is devastated, noting this is not the first time that this has happened to them
Seventeen years ago, two of Jean-Dickens’ cousins were kidnapped in Port-au-Prince. The family hopes like that horrific experience that ended in the cousins being released, that somehow the couple will be set free also.