One of the DC Protesters original organizers, Rick Santiago, who recently gave an interview with Transportation Nation saying he was “stepping back from DC” citing concerns with GoFundMe accounts set up for the protesters, and his own checkered past related to similar accounts used to raise funds for Hurricane victims in Puerto Rico.
“Three years ago, I was accused of being a “scammer.” I have been accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars by Facebook “vigilantes” in my efforts of helping Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria destroyed the island,” said Santiago in an email to Transportation Nation.
As he mentioned, there have been many accusations surrounding improper use of funds that were donated to Santiago’s GoFundMe accounts during Hurricane Maria. Santiago says that there was In Fact there have been so many claims of improper use, Santiago appears to have a Facebook page dedicated to exposing these claims. The Facebook page, titled Exposing Scammers has dozens of posts accusing Santiago of “praying upon vulnerable people with fake promises and hopes” in relation to collecting funds.
In response to these claims, there are screenshots of posts, reportedly posted by Santiago addressing these claims and stating that he refunded those who donated.
One of the most damning videos was a video posted by Santiago himself, boasting about receiving a GoFundMe check after people who reportedly donated to the help the people affected by Hurricane Maria, but realized the money might not head to the Island and tried to stop the check.
In the most recent article in Transportation Nation, Santiago said that due to some of the current GoFundMe accounts set up for the protesters and his background, he thought it was a better choice to take a step back, even after he says he was “investigated and cleared of any wrongdoing by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG)” for the previous claims. Freight Broker Live was unable to confirm any previous or ongoing investigation by the DOJ and/or OIG at the time of publication.
“There are a few fundraisers that are currently collecting money to feed the drivers that are seeking justice in Washington. Everyone is collecting it but nobody is seeing it,” said Santiago in the letter to Transportation Nation. “With that said, I cannot be anywhere near this now. I will not be in D.C. while there are any donations being sought or handled.”
It is worth mentioning, the Facebook group The Disrespected Trucker, which was the group that originally organized the demonstration in D.C. fought back against these claims saying that all donations received to provide food and portable restrooms are fully accounted for. There are several posts on the groups page buy some of the GoFundMe account organizers showing full accountability into the transactions with photos of receipts and screenshots of account balances.
Jeremy Johnson, one of the founders of the group The Disrespected Trucker put out a video late May 14th, providing transparency into the GoFundMe accounts and addressed the “false accusations” by Santiago saying that all the money that has been raised individually has been fully accounted for.
“I don’t know how, or why or what his deal is, but he felt the need to put out, in a public statement, that money was not being used in D.C. and that can’t be further from the truth,” said Johnson.
Many viewed the letter from Santiago to Transportation Nation as a last ditch effort to be relevant to the protests after suddenly departing Washington several days after the protest began, and calling for the end of the protest.
Santiago made a series of videos in the days after leaving D.C. calling for small carriers to send evidence that freight brokers were “price-gouging” to him for review saying that he was going to build a case against price gouging brokers. Then again, several days later, Santiago stated that he “was wrong” after speaking to an attorney and confirming that the low rates was not illegal broker price-gouging, but vowed to continue the fight….somehow.
After news of the President’s interview with Maria Bartiromo May 15th, Santiago emerged again posting the video on his Facebook page with the following message “This is unbelievable. A bold face lie!!! I hope the hats were worth it! I started DC and others dropped the ball! This time, I’m going to do it MY WAY!”
In a comment on his Facebook page, Santiago appears to take credit for the entire DC protest, and lets all his followers know he is not done….
“There is another plan of action I have. I didn’t go to Washington DC to support Donald Trump. I went to DC because it’s the Nations capital. I have told everyone “people will be in his ear telling him not to listen to us”. I was right all along. Now, there is another state I am headed to. This state saved my life and I know we will see change with law makers in the state of….TEXAS! There are a few trucks waiting for me. And this time, I’m doing this alone. No trucking group will take over this one. The Whitehouse chief of staff said it clearly. “We are too divided”. This is what I get for allowing others to dictate our agenda.”