COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – A former Westerville resident accused of using crowdfunded money, meant for turtle conservation charities to buy cryptocurrency and other personal items, was sued by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.
Samuel Darling collected nearly $31,753 from 101 supporters through a crowd-funding initiative titled “Turtle Conservation Diver” on the platform Kickstarter. Darling committed to giving wristwatches to donors and donating a portion of the proceeds to turtle-conservation charities, using the slogan “buy a watch, save a turtle.”
Darling did not deliver the watches, nor did he turn over the raised money to the specified charities until receiving pressure from law enforcement, according to a press release from Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.
On the Kickstarter website, once a campaign reaches its goal, the pledges are paid and the project creator is contractually obligated to deliver on the promises outlined in the campaign, including any specified rewards for contributions.
After collecting pledges in July and August 2020, surpassing his fundraising goal of $18,000, Darling wrote on the campaign page that there were production challenges with the watches, but assured supporters that they would be delivered.
Darling acknowledged another “production delay” in July 2021, posting on the campaign page he couldn’t deliver the watches and promised a refund to donors. He also wrote that all of the money contributed by donors had been used to buy the watches.
When refunds were slow to come, many donors filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission. The Attorney General’s office said an investigation revealed Darling had deposited the donations into his personal bank account and purchased cryptocurrency, among other things, but no purchases were made towards fulfilling the campaign promises.
The investigation also uncovered that Darling had no evidence that he ever attempted to produce the watches, the press release said.
Under a settlement, Darling has agreed to provide restitution to supporters, to pay civil penalties and to not engage in additional crowdfunding campaigns in Ohio for at least five years.
Any contributors to the Turtle Conservation Diver campaign who haven’t received a refund can file a complaint by calling 1-800-282-0515.