A Minnesota woman who collected $120,000 for a fundraiser in Philando Castile’s name has agreed to repay the money after being accused of failing to distribute and use the funds for its intended purpose.
Castile’s name gained nationwide attention after the 32-year-old was tragically shot and killed during a traffic stop in 2016, by police officer Jeronimo Yanez, who was later fired from the St. Anthony Police Department.
Yanez was charged with manslaughter and the dangerous discharge of a firearm. The case went to trial but a jury found him not guilty on all counts.
On March 28, Minnesota’s attorney general Keith Ellison’s office announced its settlement with Pamela Fergus, the organizer of “Philando Castile Feeds the Children.”
The fundraiser launched in August 2017, via the now-defunct crowdfunding platform YouCaring, to raise $5,000 to pay off student lunch debts.
Fergus is a psychology professor at Inver Hills Community College and Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, Minnesota.
It was at the latter school that the educator created and spearheaded the fundraiser at the root of the settlement.
The investigation into Philando Castile Feeds the Children started in January 2020, after Philando’s mother Valerie Castile told the state attorney general’s office that she had concerns about how the fundraiser was using its donations.
The state attorney general’s office filed its lawsuit against Fergus in June 2021, after the organizer failed to account for $120,000 of the $200,000 the fundraiser received.
Although the settlement didn’t require any admission of guilt from the professor, Fergus is now required to pay back the unaccounted for $120,000 over the next two years. Her payments will consist of $400 monthly from this June to February 2024, paid to the state, and additional funds on or before March 3, 2024, when she’s expected to have access to her retirement money.
Fergus “is immediately liable for the entire amount still owed” if she fails to make her payments, according to The New York Times.
She’s also banned from being in charge of an organization’s charitable funds ever again.
The professor’s repayment will go towards clearing the debts of students at Saint Paul Public Schools — the same district where Castile once worked as a cafeteria employee “and would pay for the lunches of students who could not afford them,” the NYTimes detailed.
Philando Castile Feeds the Children did donate around $80,000 of its proceeds to the Saint Paul Public School district, according to other information gathered in the investigation.
“Philando Castile cared deeply about the children he served, and the children loved him back,” said Ellison, Minnesota’s AG, in a statement. “Failing to use every dollar raised to help those children was an insult to Philando’s legacy and all who loved him.”