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Mt. Pleasant Township man charged with pocketing money from GoFundMe account for dead girlfriend's funeral, daughter

| Monday, May 8, 2017, 4:36 p.m.
GoFundMe.com
A screenshot shows the GoFundMe page set up to raise money after the death of Tracy Soles in July 2015. The page said the money was for Soles’ funeral and her daughter. Her boyfriend, Shawn M. Smartnick, 32, of Mt. Pleasant, is charged with keeping the $1,530 donated.

A Mt. Pleasant Township man is charged with using a popular online site to collect money for his girlfriend's funeral expenses but keeping the money for himself.

Shawn M. Smartnick, 32, was charged by Westmoreland County Detective Paul Burkey with theft by failure to make required disposition of funds following the death of his late girlfriend, Tracy Soles, who died in 2015.

Burkey reported in an affidavit of probable cause filed with Norvelt District Judge Roger Eckles that the day after Soles, 37, died at Excela Frick Hospital in Mt. Pleasant, Smartnick's mother, Deborah, established an account at GoFundMe.com for people to donate money to help pay for “Tracy's Funeral Expenses.”

Deborah Smartnick told Burkey in an interview that shortly after the account was opened, she transferred its management to her son.

The account shows that $1,530 was raised towards a goal of $10,000.

“None of that money has been turned over to Laura and Paul Soles, (Tracy's parents) who paid for the funeral. Tracy also had an 11-year-old daughter when she died,” Burkey reported in the affidavit.

The GoFundMe site lists that the account was established by Shawn Smartnick on July 21, 2015.

“On July 20th, 2015, Tracy Soles suddenly passed away. She was only 37 years young. She was survived by her 11 year old daughter ... and fiance of many years Shawn Smartnick,” the fund post states. “It was such a sudden tragic loss. We are taking donations to help with the cost of funeral expenses and helping (her daughter). Any donations are greatly appreciated. God bless!”

“Help spread the word!,” the post concludes.

Burkey said the case was turned over to the county detectives earlier this year after a complaint was made to the state Attorney General's Office of Charitable Trusts and Organizations section.

Burkey reported that he spoke with Shawn Smartnick by telephone after the investigation was launched in February.

“Smartnick agreed to turn over the monies to the Soles, however, since that time, Smartnick has not returned calls made to him or to his mother,” Burkey wrote in the affidavit of probable cause.

Smartnick was served the complaint via summons, according to online records. He could not be reached for comment.

Eckles scheduled a preliminary hearing for Smartnick on June 8.

Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2860, ppeirce@tribweb.com or via Twitter @ppeirce_trib.

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