After receiving $480,000 from The One Fund Boston as compensation for her claim that she was injured in the Boston Marathon bombings, Audrea Gause, 26, apparently wasted little time spending it.
In short order, she paid $377,000 for a new custom home in Clifton Park, N.Y., not far from where she currently lives in Troy, authorities said Friday.
“She was buying her dream home,” said John Cooney, a captain with the Police Department in Troy, N.Y.
But on Friday, Gause was charged with defrauding the victims’ compensation fund, allegedly using pages of falsified medical records to make her claim. The purported records indicated that Gause had experienced long-term memory loss, impaired speech, and some loss of motor function that would require surgery.
The One Fund, which distributed nearly $61 million to victims of the attack, approved Gause’s claim in late June. But after receiving a tip within the last week that Gause may not have been in Boston for the Marathon, investigators with the Massachusetts attorney general’s office determined that she had not been a patient at Boston Medical Center nor the Albany Medical Center after the bombings, as she had claimed.
“As a result of information given to us and our own investigation, we have determined there is no evidence that Ms. Gause was an actual victim of the bombing or that the evidence that she submitted on behalf of her claim was anything but false and doctored,” Attorney General Martha Coakley said at a press conference.
Gause was arrested Thursday in Troy, on a fugitive warrant issued by Massachusetts. Her infant child was taken into protective custody.
“She made no admission at the time of arrest,” Cooney said.
Cooney said the home building company has agreed to return the money to the One Fund. Gause had initially tried to pay for the home in cash, but when the company balked, she returned with a certified check, Cooney said.
“We believe the money is fully accounted for,” Cooney said. "That’s real good news.”
Gause requested a public defender, Cooney said. Published reports in New York indicated she is unemployed. She is being held without bail and is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday in Troy.
Coakley said that the documents Gause submitted “indicated validity” and that One Fund officials had taken care to vet the claim.
“I think the outrageous thing is that for all of [One Fund’s] due diligence and their care in trying to get dollars out to the people who needed them, we still have individuals with fraudulent intent who are attempting to take that money away,” she said.
Coakley said one or two other individuals may have been involved. One Fund officials declined to comment.
Investigators are now reviewing all One Fund claims, and the charity has brought in auditors to review the payments. To date, no other fraudulent activity has been found.
In early July, a South End man was accused of attempting to defraud the One Fund of more than $2 million, allegedly claiming his aunt had lost both her legs in the bombings. Prosecutors said the woman had been dead for more than a decade.
Branden Mattier, 22, told police he filed the claim to help people in his neighborhood and did not consider it stealing, according to court records.
Mattier’s claim included a falsified letter from a trauma specialist that described the aunt as a double amputee, authorities said. Inconsistent font sizes and grammatical errors quickly drew suspicion.
Investigators told Mattier later that his aunt’s claim had been granted and that he would receive a check for almost $2.2 million. After Mattier signed for it, he was arrested.
On a Facebook page that appeared to belong to Gause, she is apparently shown in front of the property she was poised to buy.
“Proud home owner and my house not even built yet,” she wrote on the page, which was no longer public Friday.
On July 1, when the One Fund was sending out payment notifications, she wrote, “Anxiously waiting for this fedex . . . please hurry . . . because I am nerveWRECKED.”
Her page makes no apparent reference to the bombings or any injuries. She did not make any posts between April 11 and April 27, her birthday.
“Omg today I am 26,” she wrote that day. “I really fell [sic] like the young days are over but im a still party this day up.”
Later that day, she wrote “going to bombers to get my free drink!”