POLICE investigators are looking to see if an American woman’s 12-day disappearance was staged, in an elaborate scheme to raise money on GoFundMe.
The Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Utah is cautioning the office had not gathered enough evidence to support their allegation she attempted to defraud the public.
A GoFundMe page started by her sister, Jaime Strong, raised more than £9,000 before it was deactivated.
A post written by Strong on October 15, said the money raised from the GoFundMe page would be used to reimburse hotel and car rental expenses for family and friends who helped search for Courtier.
It would also help to fund Courtier’s medical care, it said.
Utah authorities have since launched an investigation into Courtier’s disappearance, after determining her story had discrepancies and questions that do not add up.
The Washington County Sheriff’s Office said it received “numerous tips” indicating “the incident was possibly conceived and carried out as part of a plan to fraudulently generate money to a GoFundMe account for Courtier’s recovery.”
“Despite the thorough investigation conducted by the National Park Service, Utah State Code does not grant them the authority to investigate violations of Utah law,” the sheriff’s department press release reads.
“Based on our local authority and jurisdiction, the Sheriff’s Office had an obligation to the public to investigate the criminal allegations which were being presented,” it continued.
There was no evidence, at that point in the investigation, to support the theory that the incident was committed intentionally as an effort to achieve financial gain, the release concluded.
On October 18, she was found by park rangers half a mile from where she was dropped off after park rangers received a tip from a hiker.
Cashin’s doubts about Courtier’s story began after reading a CNN interview with her 19-year-old daughter, Kailey Chambers.
The teen told the news service her mother had banged her head on a tree and become disorientated. She’d ended up near a river bed and thought her best chance of survival was to stay near a source of water.
Chambers said her mother didn’t have food on her when she went missing. She became weak, Chambers said, which prevented her from being able to seek out help.
However, Cashin said the claims led to his doubts, saying the only source of water in the park is the Virgin River, and it is toxic due to the numerous parasites inhabiting the water, saying park officials in July warned visitors to avoid contact with the water because of its high concentrations of cyanobacteria.
Cashin said she would have died if she relied on that water for 12 days.