Read Choi, a content creator especially well-known for his TikTok videos, is being accused of mishandling money for a GoFundMe cause he started—to raise funds for a homeless woman he featured in a TikTok video.
The original video went up on the platform—where Choi has more than 3 million followers—on June 26. That video, featuring a woman he called “Martha,” has attracted more than 2.4 million views so far. It starts with Choi introducing Martha as “a kind homeless woman who just got out of the ER after a head injury.” He went on to note that she had a number of items stolen from her, and when he’d first encountered her, he found her on the ground unable to get up.
The minute-long clip shows Choi going to a nearby Ross to fulfill a wish she had—getting clean sweatpants—and then finishes with Choi announcing that he’s started a GoFundMe to help Martha further.
“Her gratitude moved me to want to do more,” Choi said in a voiceover while the video shows him embracing her.
The GoFundMe raised more than $20,000, though with the page no longer accepting donations, it’s unclear how many contributed how much to help Martha out.
Choi posted an update video on July 31 that showed him finding Martha again, setting her up in a hotel room, buying her food, water, and toiletries, and even asking her to pray with him at one point.
The video generated a lot of positive comments from TikTok followers praising him for his generosity, along with a few references stemming from a March allegation on Twitter claiming Choi knowingly gave women a sexually transmitted disease. Some commenters accused Choi of using Martha to distract from the negative attention he got from these allegations.
The story got an update six days ago, though, when he came on TikTok to answer questions about where the money raised for Martha has gone. He started the video with a disclaimer saying he would show some but not all of his receipts and wouldn’t create a Google Doc to track the money.
He then performed people asking, “Why do you have the money? Why haven’t you given it to her? Does she even know about it?” And he then responded, “I have told her multiple times, and she has forgotten multiple times.” He then said that he was giving her small amounts of money as a test to see how she would spend it, and while he wouldn’t disclose specifically how, he gave enough details—including claiming she’d had multiple visits to the ER—to insinuate that she wasn’t taking care of herself in a way he approved.
“She has problems that are stereotypical of her age and her position,” he said, before explaining that he’s had to replace items that she lost. So, rather than giving her full discretion over the money raised for her, he asserted that he was spending the money for her on things that helped her.
That TikTok video explainer was met was a great deal of skepticism, including those who didn’t believe that nurses would violate patient privacy standards to volunteer medical information to Choi.
Though Choi asserted in that video he wouldn’t be doing a follow-up video, he did one the next day to try to clear up what he termed “confusion and misunderstandings.”
He addressed topics as varied as Martha’s memory, his own grandparents’ memory loss, the difficulty of getting social workers involved in her case, and a release of information waiver that hospitals use to allow non-relatives (like Choi in this case) to get updates on patients. But as one skeptic responded in the comments, “He still didn’t tell us what happened to [the] 20k.”
Another TikToker, @dthekorean, called attention to the possible scam, declaring in a video that he messaged Choi about the money, but adding that if Choi can show that he gave the homeless woman the $20,000 before recording the video, he would personally fly to Los Angeles and apologize.
He then released a follow-up video the next day, purporting to speak to the central figure in the video—whose name, as the recording of the FaceTime showed—was actually named Marcia. He asked her if Choi had told her about the $20,000 raised on her behalf, and she said no. She also added, “I think he’s working with somebody else.”
The next day, Choi came out with a video refuting dthekorean’s video. Choi directly addressed dthekorean in the video, asserting, “She lied to you, because like I said in my other videos, she does not trust people.” He went on to claim that she was lying in order to protect him. He then accused dthekorean of stressing her out and making her “slightly paranoid” by what he characterized as his “interrogation.”
He then showed what he claimed was an interview with “Martha,” though with her face not visible in the interview and with her answers arousing suspicion of the interview being staged (and even, as a few commenters alleged, done by a voice actor), that TikTok perhaps clouded rather than cleared up the matter.
And finally, to add to the scrutiny around Choi, TikTok muckraker Aunt Karen got on the case with her own synopsis of events.
The Daily Dot has reached out Choi and dthekorean for comment.
Update 11:00 am CT Sept. 22: In a statement to the Daily Dot, GoFundMe communications manager Jenny Perillo said the company required Choi to fill complete a document that clearly stated how the funds would be used before any money was released to him. She stated that the fundraiser itself had information on these expenses, which include “hotel accommodations, food, and hygiene products, among other costs.”
Choi previously released a video stating that he was cooperating with GoFundMe to ensure that the funds were spent on “Martha.”
“Our Trust & Safety team will also require additional documentation to ensure the funds are used for their stated purpose,” Perillo told the Daily Dot. “If the funds are not used as stated in the written document, additional measures can be taken to protect donors and prevent misuse.”
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