Saturday, November 28, 2020

Go, fund, gone

As the gofundme fundraising page for the alleged “Heathrow homeless duo” Alan Lane and Katrina Smith is removed, many ask: “Where has the money raised for them gone?”

 

The public initially reacted to the alleged plight of Alan Lane and Katrina Smith by expressing sympathy and after one – a woman named Natalie Longford – went as far as to set up a gofundme page for the couple, donations flowed in. Now, after The Steeple Times and others raised questions about this story, the page has been taken down.

 

gone
This screenshot highlights that the gofundme campaign for Alan Lane and Katrina Smith has now disappeared

gone
How the page looked before it was taken down

 

The Steeple Times contacted gofundme’s media department on Sunday 15th February for comment. An automated response claimed the firm normally answers press queries within two hours. As of 10am on the 16th February, no answer had been received.

 

Many still wish to know whether Lane and Smith ever really lived at Heathrow Airport and want to be told where the money raised by Natalie Longford through her gofundme campaign actually has gone. It is time for some answers.

 

 

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    55 COMMENTS

    1. Katie
      Katie (GoFundMe Customer Happiness)

      Feb 16, 11:35 AM

      Hello,

      I have ensured that our Security Team has also reviewed the emails you have sent over.

      We are unable to share any non-public account information with any parties other than the page creator without a court order – this includes any information regarding our investigation in to this page.

      As we have already noted, if you believe this user is committing fraud, or breaking the law in any way, please contact law enforcement officials and we’ll be happy to work with them should they decide to investigate the claims made on this page.

      RECEIVED TODAY AT 7.35PM

    2. If this is a scam could the Daily Mail be found guilty of anything? Even if they’re not involved in it they have reassured people that they have checked the story out.

    3. The Daily Mail have done nothing more than evoke sympathy for the couple with a dubious headline and ‘sad faces pictures’ They clearly mentioned the couple came back from Canada in October. Living with friends initially. then, Heathrow airport using the coffee shop as his office, and Ms Smith watching dramas on her smart phone, They mentioned the healthy income the couple receive, So, nothing illegal there.
      This couple will not collect the money as no-one has been able to reach them as far as I can tell. Plus the fund dwindled,
      I think all this proved is that some members of the public are too willing to give their money away without a thought.
      We are unlikely to hear anymore on this as the people who have received refunds will be feeling a bit bashful. Gofundme don’t want bad publicity. Daily Mail probably wished they never run the daft story.
      Maybe we should mention our favourite quotes from the news reports.

    4. Normally answers press enquiries with 2 hours? Waiting, waiting …. but can only think an enquiry must be underway and in time the outcome of this (now) intriguing mystery will be revealed. Waiting, waiting ….

    5. I have just sent the email below to GoFundME, under heading: UK Story: Katrina and Alan’s Home Fund:

      You will be aware of the controversy emanating from the funding page above. Natalie Longford who set up the page declares she “doesn’t know” the couple involved. Why then has she deleted her LinkedIn account, and apparently, according to other concerned Brits, also deleted her personal page and business page on Facebook. Whether she has links to either the Daily Mail or Murray Sanders is basically immaterial and as you will be aware, there are many anomalies involved in this story.

      What is relevent to your GoFund Me site, setting aside representations that have apparently been made to both the FBI in the States and the IPCC in the UK, is that approximately 450 donors to this fund now have no information on how to access a refund, should they wish to. Less than 5% of donors to this fund had the opportunity to reclaim their donations before the funding page was abruptly deleted last Sunday.

      I would suggest that GoFundMe reinstate the original funding page, not necessarily with comments being available, simply to advise donors of their rights to refund and how they should apply for them. Those on Facebook and those who access The Steeple Times in the UK may well feel that in the future, any UK funding sites on GFM are suspect and will not donate.

      If your site does not feel it necessary to set up an easily accessible refund site relating to this fund, possibly a Change.org petition can be generated to bring this situation to the attention of the British government.

      H. Laughton

    6. GOFUNDME so annoying they will not answer queries. I have not been able to get the full name of a senior manager there. Nor have I been able to find out if they are giving everyone a refund, Despite several emails – no replies though initially I did get nonsensical ones stating – not allowed to share information except with the organiser.

    7. Maybe an article could be published making everyone aware of what seems to be (not) going on. Maybe there are investigations behind the scenes. Like many I know, I am now very wary of Go Fund Me. There do seem to have been scams in the past and how are we to know what their ‘fraud control’ is if people (and money) can seemingly disappear without explanation.

    8. If you go by their ridiculous attempts to pacify stating ~ our security team -. They are a business first and foremost employing cheap labour.
      The latest – Google has made Alan Lane Katerina disappear. When I typed their names, searched within a time limit ~ a week; a screen with a message stating info had been removed because of law……

    9. Just searched the Net and although Google may have deleted references to the pair, on DuckDuckGo all the articles/websites are still there. Lane is/was a member of the Levantine Trust which has connections to the university in Bournemouth [hence presumably the B’mouth address given on the Vasgama registry updated at the beginning of Feb] though that doesn’t explain why the phone number is the same as the Canfield Cliffs number – of a property the pair left, supposedly, 18 months ago.

      Another article says GFM are “investigating”. Does that mean no money has been handed over? [No photos of “grateful couple” in the Mail needless to say.] I’m not on FB so don’t know what people are saying there, and if any further refunds have been requested and received. GFM should not allow a fundraising page to be deleted if there is controversy and if refunds are being offered. I suggest a blitz of emails to the D.Mirror, in the hope that they will publicise more widely the discontent and disgust of members of the public. If that happened, maybe GFM would act more responsibly in future.

      And the D.Mail. There was a sad story a couple of days ago: elderly lady stuck in hospital because council had cut back the home visits that would allow her to go home to her dementia-suffering husband. That one didn’t last a day. Wonder why.

    10. H. Laughton. Who has the power to have all details of this couple removed from Google? Up till now I’ve only heard of “powerful” people having this privilege so was it the Daily Mail who instructed it be removed and if so, why? I have totally lost all respect for the Daily Mail and if this does all turn out to be a scam which they have gone to great lengths to cover up then in my opinion they should be held accountable in a court of law for this and be made to reimburse every single person who donated!!

    11. Having just done a Google search regarding this couple I noticed that there are still a couple of articles regarding this couple written by Daily Mail therefore I retract everything I have written in the comment above except for “I have totally lost all respect for the Daily Mail” as that still stands! Profuse apologies for not having checked for myself first before making the above statement.

    12. Have just read the following comment posted in the Daily Echo which I found on Google:

      ..
      .

      9:41am Sat 21 Feb 15

      les1999 says…

      I followed this ‘story’ (& peoples responses) since it broke & not commented ANYWHERE, until now!

      I did not comment on their GFM page because I KNEW they would delete it (not the comment, the actual profile). ‘They’ being Alan Lane & partner.

      Just as I predicted Alan Lane/Katrina Smith deleted the account (NOT GFM) —– The reason they deleted it is because it takes up to 7 days to ‘cash up’ (for a UK member) and they ‘had cashed in their nearly 9 Grand (not bad for a ‘day’s’ takings – incidentally that didn’t include ‘offline’ donations so they may have received even more than the amount showing on GFM).

      This story has made me REALLY annoyed on MANY levels…………��
      �..
      Basically ‘Natalie Longford’ was Alan Lane…… .the advice given on the GFM page says it is preferable to link a Facebook profile to the account……as before looking for donations from strangers you should 1st start off with your own friends/community…
      …….as per the site advice given ‘he’ did link a profile (Natalie!) which had NO friends on it and he also had had the ‘Add a Friend’ feature DISABLED… this profile was obviously for the purpose of setting up a Facebook page as someone else (Natalie) i.e., a 3rd party and it seemed the ‘idea’ was taken from the Alan Barnes/Katie Cutler ‘stranger’ scenario… the whole system was ALL contrived, pre-mediated/well thought out beforehand.
      Incidentally ‘Natalie Longford’ also had her area as ‘Stockton on Tees’, yet there was no Natalie Longford on the electoral register in that area! . *fake, fake, fake*

      ‘She’ then deleted her FB profile when the kerfuffle took over! And after ‘she’ had cashed up!! The reason I mention that GFM were not the ones to delete the account is because…. They also stood to gain financially i.e., they get 5% from EVERY donation plus the payment processor people (who handle the payment) also get another cut. That is the real reason why GFM did not delete the account.

      The reason I say it has made me MAD is because I have a friend who has put a profile on there with a VERY genuine case of hardship (www.gofundme.com/he
      lpgrandma84) and they have not raised ONE cent. It is so annoying when people like that ‘heathrow couple’ quite obviously scam the system and get away with it and then there are genuine people in need/poverty and they do not get the help/support they deserve.

      Read the shocking story here www . gofundme.com/helpgra
      ndma84 and also click on the link in the profile, the photos will SHOCK you more.

      Then think about Alan Lane & Katrina Smith and compare the two situations and THEN decide who is the more needy!!!!! *Disgusting*

    13. Val: I believe anyone can contact Google to have data removed, not just the rich and powerful.
      Also it is up to the fundraiser who starts a page to decide whether to leave it up or delete. My point there is/was that GFM should not allow page deletion if there is controversy or refunds ongoing.

      Apart from your quote above from the Bournemouth Echo, there was another one which is interesting. I made a comment on the Wrong Lane thread [which is a little more active again] that no one who’s stayed at H.Cottages had commented. So, from the Echo:

      “This couple are NOT the same Alan and Katerina (pure coincidence of the names) who run Heathrow Cottages B & B. I stayed there in Sept last year so I should know what they look like. Alan and Katerina, if you’re reading this, I hope this publicity gets you lots more business in your beautiful B & B!”

      Re your quote above where the poster is inferring that there is no real N.Longford – not as fantastic as it might seem at first reading. Lane is a media person after all, up to all the tricks no doubt.

    14. It is extremely unlikely that Natalie Longford is Alan Lane. It is easy enough to opt-out of the open register, so not finding a “Natalie Longford” on the online electoral roll means nothing (the person who wrote this is obviously not on the electoral roll or they would have known this). When Natalie first set up the GFM page, all of her other fundraising pages were linked to her GFM profile, she likely disabled that when people starting questioning her motives. As far as the claim that people who set up the fundraising pages “get 5% from EVERY donation”, sorry but that is BS. It’s GFM that gets the 5%, plus the payment processor gets another 2.9%+$0.30 per donation.

      People should stop blaming Natalie Longford. It’s not a crime to be a gullible idiot.

      Also, the Alan & Katrina that run the B&B are not Alan Lane and Katrina Smith.

      It’s the Daily Mail and reporter Frances Hardy who are at fault here… “news” stories, as opposed to editorials, are SUPPOSED to be impartial. Their stories on the couple clearly weren’t. The article was an editorial masquerading as a news story.

      The Press Complaints Commission has guidelines that Editors are to follow, which include:

      “The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information” and

      “The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.”

      The DM and Frances Hardy have clearly failed, badly, in this regard. As a direct result of their misleading and distorted information, over £8,000 was raised to “help” this “homeless” couple.

      Complaints can be made to the PCC: http://www.pcc.org.uk/complaints/makingacomplaint.html

      I posted this in the comments of the Steeple Times article, “The Wrong Lane”, but repeat it here. These are examples of the biased “reporting” by Frances Hardy and the Daily Mail.

      1. The DM says that Katrina refuses to claim JSA because she is “unable to attend the necessary interviews with careers advisers on a regular basis”. “Unable”? Really? She spends her days idle, wandering around Heathrow terminal, watching TV on her smartphone & applying for jobs advertised online. Heathrow is extremely well-served by public transport links. Yet somehow she is “unable” to attend interviews according to the DM. More like “unwilling”.

      2. Katrina and Alan are described as being trapped in their current life “because of an anomaly. They do not qualify for low-cost social housing because they are not considered ‘vulnerable’: they are not disabled, mentally ill, drug or alcohol dependent and they don’t have dependent children”. Alan complains, “We’re at the bottom of the heap”. Perhaps the council is unwilling to help them because an income of £1400 per month is considered adequate to live on. The article makes no mention of this. Surely the reporter, Frances Hardy, could have called the Borough of Poole to enquire as to the specific criteria for social housing eligibility, i.e. does Alan & Katrina’s monthly income of £1400 make them ineligible for social housing? This is hardly an “anomaly”, it is simply council rules. This is not just lazy reporting, it is dishonest.

      3. The article states that the couple cannot afford to rent privately because “even a modest flat costs £800 a month”. A quick perusal of rightmove reveals this to be a bald-faced lie. There are many rental properties available in Poole for less than £800/month, they start at about £550/month (which is £150 *less* than they spend on furniture storage and B&Bs).

      4. Katrina claims that had lived a modest life: “our pleasures were modest ones… and were never extravagant”. Yet they managed to blow £190k–gained from the sale of their flat–between 2006 and 2011, at a time when Alan also worked on contract for Canadian Oil Sands, mining giant Rio Tinto and the International Council on Mining. He also was CEO of his own consulting company, Vasgama, during this time, and would have been drawing state pension from 2008, when he turned 65. That’s a lot of money for a supposedly “modest” lifestyle.

      The DM “news” story is full this kind of bias. If you are outraged over this story, PLEASE contact the Press Complaints Commission.

      Complaints can be made to the PCC: http://www.pcc.org.uk/complaints/makingacomplaint.html

    15. I have to say I did not donate to the fund so I have no idea if contributors are being updated as to what happened to their donation. Some had started to apply for refunds as the fund was dwindling daily. Natalie was assuring everyone that they could keep applying for refunds and then the next day the fund page had disappeared. I would be fuming if I had intended to apply for a refund that day – but there seems to be silence from the donors.

      If fraud has indeed occurred then the public surely have a right to know. Maybe an investigation is under way – maybe not. It all just seems to have disappeared – where is the money? Can the public not be informed about the goings on of these crowd funding websites? It does seems that scams have occurred. Is this one? Or is it not? Many questions ….

    16. I have emailed the Daily Mirror, asking them to undertake an investigation into this story, particularly directing them to the comments on the various articles in The Steeple Times. May not get us anywhere, but worth trying!

      • Good on you!

        Peculiar that media put a blind eye to it – my first thought was a media thing after Katie and Alan, that didn’t turn out as planned. Why should media walk away from a story that would spread around like a wildfire.

        Very very strange indeed.

    17. I’m compiling a list of anomalies/questions relating to this story. As I’m not on Facebook, there is a large area of comment/”fact” I don’t have access to. If any contributors here are FB members, could they let me have copies of what is/has been said [if it hasn’t been deleted]. If you’re willing to do that, writing here, I’ll give my email address to which copies can be sent.

      This story is dying and it shouldn’t be allowed to. Too many unanswered/provable points, e.g.: what was Lane doing in Nigeria [the home of scams] when he was “rescued”?? It goes on and on, I know, I haven’t checked yet, but in the original D.Mail, was there a GFM link? If there was, the clouds gather.

    18. Uploaded a comment this morning which hasn’t appeared here. Never mind.

      Checked the original D.Mail story re this pair, dated 6 Feb. One of the headlines was that a GFM site had been set up by wellwishers. Click through and although GFM are “sorry” that page not available, it has the same ID tag as the page set up by wellwishe-r [singular] Natalie Longford the FOLLOWING day, on 7 Feb. So perhaps N.Longford was asked to do so by “friends” of the couple [who don’t appear to have any, none have surfaced] before the article was published, or she has links to the D.Mail. Fishy smell getting stronger.

    19. Have posted a question to the Heathrow Cottages page on trip advisor asking if they are the same Alan and Katrina as mentioned in the Daily Mail Article, However the question just keeps getting removed by the B&B Management.. You would have thought that they would deny any involvement it they weren’t !

    20. I dont know what to think about the b&b. Is it them or just a couple with the same first names.

      Did alan page set the gfm page under a fake person.

      I do not believe they have been sleeping at heathrow though. That i 100% don’t believe.

      Maybe we need a gfm page set up to raise money for this to be investigated further!

    21. I saw somewhere an address for a flat in poole they own for sale but another address in bournemouth, think it was some kind of company address connected to him. I did consider seeing what was going on there.

    22. Bournemouth address probably relates to the Levantine Training Centre [no address on the website]. Lane’s profile there:

      “Alan Lane is CEO, VASGAMA- International Communications Counsel. His experience has covered a career in journalism and working within government and within major multinational brands. VASGAMA has provided consultancy advice on reputation management to clients across the world- ranging from Shell International, McDonald’s, Knoll Pharmaceuticals and the Design Council to the World Bank. Alan is also a guest lecturer to MA/BA Corporate Communication/PR undergraduates at Bournemouth University, the UK’s premier media school.”

      I do love “provided …advice on reputation management” !

    23. There seems to be a complete media blackout on this story. None of the donors who may still want a refund has spoken up. Natalie was assuring people they could still apply for refunds and then overnight the page disappeared. Have the donors been contacted by Natalie and/or GFM and refunds are still going on ‘behind the scenes’ and the donors have all been told to remain silent? Perhaps an enquiry is underway and no one can speak out or it might interfere with the enquiry? WHY is there media silence !!!?

    24. In case unhappy donors have not been contacted via GFM and find their way here, they can email GFM at:

      support@gfm.com.

      You’re right, Anna, a conspiracy of silence. Daily Mirror have not even bothered to acknowledge receipt of the email I sent them. Will keep trying.

      Would also be interesting to know how such a high flyer [advisor to the World Bank etc] fell from grace.

    25. I’ll post this comment on “Wrong Lane” blog as well – irritating they can’t be combined – Checking out freelance journalists, the days of the keen reporter with a nose for a story doing his own legwork are obviously gone. These days, freelance journalists want to be paid [understandably] to investigate any story,

      A suggestion, which may or may not be legal, which may or may not be accepted by a funding site [and with a little tongue in cheek] – how about us sceptics set up a JustGiving funding page to ask for, say, £1500 for a freelance journalist/private eye to find some answers on the Alan Lane nowadays-non-story?? if that could happen, a few emails to the national dailies might light the fire again.

      Many of us have uncovered various bits of information which make the initial article more suspicious by the day but we have no absolute overall proof of what this couple have in their pocket, what Lane’s income is, whether they are actually living “in the New forest” at the moment, whether they have received £8k from GFM, whether GFM is continuing to provide refunds – the list goes on.

      What do the rest of you think?

    26. Comment i read on another site;

      I’m a former legal investigator – I can smell a lye from another part of the planet, that’s what people working in the area obtain after years in the business. I realised that something was rotten when I read DM’s story about these guys – I as a retired special agent acted and filed in a IPC3 form (FBI) the GoFundMe are situated in US which means that US legal authorities are to alert about this.

      What people can do is to make alerts to US and UK legal authorities.

      Contact BBC who has tried to get into this, they are interested of investigating and publish this.

    27. Twirly Wirly: what was the other site you found the above quote on? Given the spelling/grammar, I wonder if the quote is from a genuine “special agent”.

      That aside, thanks for your offer to donate. On the Wrong Lane thread, someone else has also offered to do so, and I’m ready to do so myself. I’ve emailed Matthew with some suggestions and either he or I will update everyone when I know his thoughts on this subject. If we CAN all come together [ie. those who’ve posted on Steeple Times and those of you who are on Facebook and can spread the word], I think we could raise enough to get an investigative ball rolling. All for one and one for all!

    28. Taken from the Bournemouth Echo 9.30pm 03/03/2015

      They have left the UK. Pair of them were on the same Qatar Airways flight as me that landed in Doha on the 28th Feb. They then got a connecting flight to another destination. Not sure where as they walked through to transfers and I headed for arrivals. So if they are so hard up how come they can afford flights. Could be they got the pay out from the fund raising page. Was that money supposed to be for rehousing not to spend on holidays?

    29. Saw this couple today 27 Dec 2018. In Talbot Woods, Bournemouth. Did ask about the Go fund me page which was set up and if they kept the money, Was told by Katrina that she gave a lot of the money back to Charity, however she also stated that many people were doing this and that they were getting back on their feet and living/working in Surrey. Alan was driving a 18 plated white 4×4 type car.

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