Warrant details alleged theft of gift cards intended for grieving Greenwich family who lost son
A Greenwich woman accused of stealing gift cards intended for a local grieving family had her first court appearance continued Thursday. Stephanie Fox appeared at Stamford Superior Court but did not go before a judge. Instead, Fox’s initial was pushed to January to give her attorney more time to review the evidence against her. Fox was arrested by Greenwich police on Oct. 31 on a charge of fourth-degree larceny.
The case is connected to a 9-year-old boy, who died away over the summer after a long battle with brain cancer.
“There was obviously a lot of community support for the family, and everyone wanted to help out,” explained Det. Ryan Beattie, who investigated the case. Community members sent heartfelt messages and donated food and money.
Fox didn’t know the family but set up a website and used the Pay it Forward Facebook group to solicit gift cards for them, totaling just under $1,800, according to her arrest warrant. But the family never got them. The warrant alleged Fox changed the recipient for the gift cards to an email she controlled. She told police she learned the family didn’t want monetary donations, so she instead donated the gift cards in the late child’s memory to other people in need. An email from Fox listed the recipients as “two single mothers escaping domestic violence situations, a family in which the husband is going through a deep depression and cannot work, a family that is here from Mexico with no papers and minimal employment while trying to support and feed their four children, and a family relocated from Ukraine.”
“When questioned about it by police and community members, she had initially said that she had given it to other families in need like domestic violence victims, stuff like that, but she couldn’t provide any sort of proof as to who she actually gave it to,” Beattie told News 12.
Attorney Mark Sherman, who represents Fox, denied any of the donations went to her and said she gave them to other people who were struggling.
“There’s no scam here. This was just a case where she was not handling the funds as people thought she was going to, so it’s a mishandling of funds case. She’s deeply sorry for that and hopes to make it right by paying people back and going through the court process,” Sherman told News 12.
Police said they did connect with one woman who'd received some of the gift cards. Fox described her as a postpartum single mom who lost her job during COVID. Police included an alleged email from the woman about the gift cards in the warrant, which said in part, “For the first time in three years, my toddler had fresh fruit and vegetables in her plate. She had real chicken, not frozen nuggets.” Police determined the woman was a married restaurant owner who lives in a luxury building and recently vacationed in the Caribbean, according to the warrant. Police said she told them Fox had written the email, and she’d just copied it and sent it.
“My client and I understand the sensitivity to this case,” Sherman said. “She’s disassociated herself from the website, and she’s learned from this greatly, and again, is deeply sorry for this. Other than this incident, she is a hardworking mother and really just cares about the community.”
News 12 spoke with one of the victims who bought a gift card intended for the grieving family. She asked not to be identified but provided this statement:
“The entire Greenwich community felt the pain this family was enduring as their little boy was passing away from brain cancer. The support from friends, family, the school community, fire and police departments and town government helped carry them through. It is unfathomable that another local mother would take advantage of their pain and devastating loss for her own benefit. Many of us donated to the family to help them, even if it were just for a gift for their daughter. The family never received our donations or our notes of love and support. Instead, this woman kept it all for herself, sharing very personal information about the family’s loss to garner sympathy and, frankly, money. She could not prove any of the donations went anywhere but to her own pocket. This is a horrible crime, and this woman should be ashamed. My prayers are with this lovely family as they mourn the loss of their 9-year-old son.”
Police told News 12 they investigated Fox once before after an anonymous complaint alleging a scam but found nothing to back it up.