Local real estate company offers to reimburse stolen Voices of Hope money

After T-shirt funds raised for the Voices of Hope non-profit were stolen by an online scammer, a local real estate company offered to replace the lost money.

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – Earlier this month, local T-shirt company 402ink teamed up with the KNOW MORE campaign to design shirts that would benefit Voices of Hope, a non-profit catered to helping victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

The fundraiser raised $10,960. According to Lincoln Police, those funds were stolen by an online scammer.

Voices of Hope executive director Marcee Metzger says the funds from the T-shirts sales were being raised to ensure that 24-hour victim services were available to sexual assault victims at the emergency rooms, on campuses, and on-site at the non-profit.

“It’s all a part of making sure that 24-hour advocacy services were available in Lincoln, which was why it was so hard to hear that those dollars were going away,” Metzger said.

Per LPD, the organizer of KNOW MORE received an email from someone claiming to be Voices of Hope with instructions on how to wire money to their account.

402ink owner Dan Okelberry tells Channel 8 that KNOW MORE forwarded the email to him last week.

“We initially thought that was strange, because normally we just send a check,” Okelberry said.

LPD says that 402ink transferred the money using the information provided in the email.

After the initial transfer, Okelberry says he started to receive suspicious emails.

“We instantly thought something looked off with this, the email address looked off, the grammar being used looked wrong,” Okelberry said. “We started calling and basically got everybody together at the same time and found out that Voices of Hope had not received the funds yet.”

Metzger says she learned of the news this morning.

“It was devastating,” she said. “Not only because of the loss of funds for services money, but because the KNOW MORE campaign is a group of young students trying to raise awareness about sexual assault on campuses.”

Between recently moving his business to a new location and the turmoil involved with the investigation, Okelberry says it’s been a rough few weeks for him and his staff.

“Everyone in my office has just been putting in ridiculous hours just with our normal course of trying to get work done and out the door and so this doesn’t help obviously,” he said.

On a positive note, Metzger tells Channel 8 that Home Real Estate in Lincoln offered to replace the lost money if the FBI could not track it down.

Metzger says she was told by a representative of Home Real Estate that wire fraud is a big issue in the real estate industry, which is one reason why they were willing to replace the lost funds.

In an email from Home Real Estate to Voices of Hope obtained by Channel 8, the real estate company explained, “Bottom line, these scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated and it’s not the fault of the victim. But it’s important to be vigilant in our online security and be aware that scammers may be targeting you.

Metzger says she and her team are grateful for Home Real Estate’s generosity.

“It’s exciting to be able to say at the end of the day, we live in a community where bad things can happen, but really wonderful people can do something to make a difference,” Metzger said.

This investigation is still ongoing.

In light of recent frauds, LPD is asking folks to be vigilant about online scammers asking for money. Anyone with information on this case is encouraged to call Lincoln Police at 402-441-6000 or Crime Stoppers at 402-475-3600.

Categories: Lancaster, Nebraska News, News