13 Investigates: Woman battling kidney failure says she was scammed in healthcare fundraiser

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MACHESNEY PARK (WREX) — Time is running out for a Machesney Park woman. Without a kidney transplant, Heidi Gordon will die.

“I have stage five kidney failure, renal failure,” Gordon said. “I’m in the process of trying to get a transplant.”

But her fight for a kidney isn’t why she reached out to 13 Investigates. It’s because of a different fight — for money. Gordon says a woman helped her with fundraisers to pay for her medical expenses, but Gordon never saw a dime.

“My cost would be $52,000 for the transplant plus the transportation back and forth,” Gordon said.

It’s a hefty price tag she wants to pay, but doesn’t have the means to. She’s been waiting for a transplant for 3 years, and so she thought fundraising seemed like a perfect option to help with her medical bills.

And that’s how she met Heather Totz.

“I was on Facebook and we were going to do a benefit, and I was asking if anyone would donate pastas and she popped up and said she could do all of it.”

Over text, Totz said she had a business called Weddings N More, with experience coordinating major events. But as Gordon’s benefit got closer, she grew suspicious.

“I had baskets to pick up, and she offered to pick them up and bring them to me. I said, ‘Ok.’ But she never brought them to me,” Gordon continued, “She told me she would take orders for ornaments, Christmas ornaments. And I would get 100 percent profit. When the time came, the lady dropped them off at the benefit and said that I owed her $150.”

She’d later discover Totz had a criminal history for theft. Totz pleaded guilty to stealing nearly $1,400 from Walmart in 2007 — it’s something Gordon didn’t know before she gave Totz the ‘OK’ to start this Facebook fundraiser in her name.

In total, she believes Totz collected about $400. But Gordon never saw a dime, so she decided to warn others about her experience. What she found, is she wasn’t alone.

Crislaury Garcia hired Totz for $1,235 to coordinate a Quincenara. Staci Wills paid $200 for help on a gender reveal party.

But when the time came, Totz didn’t show up for either of them.

“She was supposed to do a balloon arrangement of a castle. That never happened,” Garcia said. “She was supposed to decorate a backdrop. That never happened. I rented two throne chairs. That never happened.”

Wills shares a similar experience.

“I just asked for my money back because it was already over with and I still haven’t received anything from her nor have I heard from her,” she said.

Wills even took Totz to court and won a judgement for $200. Her aunt also hired Totz for a baby shower, and says she never showed up. The court awarded her $300.

Wills says neither of them has been paid.

13 Investigates tracked down Totz’s phone number and asked her for an interview. She initially agreed but then cancelled over text message saying she was out of town.

In a text message, she said “I have not received any funding nor donations that were not given to Heidi Gordon.” Totz also claimed she had proof. When 13 Investigates asked her to email any documents she had proving her side, she responded, “Okay.”

13 Investigates never got an email.

When we reached out again for an interview and documents, she stopped responding.

Now, Heidi Gordon says she just wants to move on.

“I would like my money back if possible because that’s a chunk of money,” she said. “It’s hard enough going through the illness, then someone wanting to rip you off.”

Gordon says she does not expected to see that $400 returned. She just wants her story to help make sure this never happens again.

The Better Business Bureau says if you have fallen victim to a similar scam, you should reach out to them, alert local law enforcement, and make federal agencies aware.

“If they are doing business simply online, then you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission who may have other complaints,” says Dennis Horton of the BBB. “The problem we find with the FTC ist hey won’t follow up necessarily on one, but if they see there is a pattern of complaints about this business then they will take a closer look and they will go after those individuals.”

If you need to contact the BBB, you can call 815-963-2222.

Kristin Crowley

Kristin Crowley

Evening News Anchor

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