Avonte Hartsfield had made a name for himself in the San Diego community for being a small business owner looking to carve out a niche for his vegan cooking.
“My food truck (Rollin Roots) was burglarized and vandalized multiple times,” Hartsfield wrote on his GoFundMe.
“Throughout the ordeal I’ve had my power chords cut, my office and truck broken into and items stolen, there was a noose hanging from the door to my office, and finally on October 3rd my truck was burned down completely.”
The GoFundMe surpassed its $100,000 goal, exceeding $102,000.
Hartsfield characterized the arson as a hate crime, saying he was targeted because of his race or homosexuality.
— Heather L. Corliss (@hlcorliss) October 5, 2021
“The police are in the middle of investigating at this time but no witnesses have come forward and there doesn’t look like much hope for holding anyone responsible,” he continued on the post.
The only problem?
Hartsfield later admitted that the cause of the fire wasn’t arson, but instead it was an electrical blaze.
“The fire that was started was actually from electrical mishap. Whether that was caused by the vandalism to our electrical system or not, I definitely want to be transparent…” he wrote in a March update.
Now, police are digging deeper into his story and have charged him with arson, insurance fraud and grand theft in connection with the fire, the insurance claims and the GoFundMe.
If convicted on all charges, Hartsfield faces up to seven years and four months in prison, and he will be forced to return the payments he received from insurance and GoFundMe.
On his post, Hartsfield mentioned how important to him his community had been in his ongoing success, which made this attempt at tricking them into paying for damages that he himself may have allegedly caused all the more despicable.
“This has been extremely difficult for me as a small black business owner who doesn’t have access to funding sources that are typically available, this entire business I’ve built from my savings, smart business decisions, and a few grants, which have been the only things that I have to rely on to stay afloat besides the consistent support from our local community.”
Both Jussie Smollett and Bubba Wallace elicited public sympathy for alleged hate crimes before it was revealed that they concocted the entire scheme to gain sympathy from their communities.
Frauds like this can make it difficult for society to take claims of racism or hate crimes seriously, as we’re forced to be more skeptical of these types of allegations.
Hartsfield has pled not guilty on all charges.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.