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Woman indicted on charges of cheating One Fund Boston

Joanna Leigh, 41, has been indicted by a Suffolk County Grand Jury on March 10 for allegedly fraudulently receiving almost $40,000 in benefits.JONATHAN WIGGS/GLOBE STAFF/File

An outspoken critic of the Boston Marathon’s victims fund has been indicted on charges of larceny and making a false claim to a government agency, after she collected benefits based on her assertion that she had suffered a traumatic brain injury in the explosions, officials said Thursday.

Joanna Leigh, 41, of Jamaica Plain, was indicted by a Suffolk County grand jury on March 10 on charges of fraudulently receiving almost $40,000 from The One Fund Boston and other sources, according to Jake Wark, a spokesman for District Attorney Daniel F. Conley.

Leigh is scheduled to be arraigned Monday in Suffolk Superior Court.


In a tearful phone interview Thursday night, Leigh said she would plead not guilty and insisted her injuries were genuine.

“I can’t deal with this,” she said. “They know I have permanent hearing aids. Why else did I get them? Like I like hanging out with them? Like I love to spend every day in doctor’s offices? Like this is how I want to spend my life?”

The One Fund Boston was established by then-mayor Thomas M. Menino and then-governor Deval Patrick to provide financial support to victims of the bombs that exploded at the Marathon finish line. It collected and distributed about $80 million in donations, according to the fund.

Leigh received an $8,000 payment and sought more than $2 million from The One Fund, Wark said in a statement, but she allegedly refused to release medical records to prove her claims.

Leigh was among the most vocal of a group of people who said they had not been fairly compensated because of the method for calculating One Fund payments: Those who did not have overnight hospital stays received $8,000, while those with one or more nights in a hospital were eligible for $125,000 or more.

On Thursday night, she said the indictment was retribution for her criticism.


“I don’t think this is about me; I think this is because I spoke out about The One Fund,” she said. “I think this is about killing the messenger. I went after the governor and the mayor’s charity, and I didn’t shut up about it, and I caused them trouble.”

Leigh also received more than $18,000 from the state’s Victims of Violent Crime Compensation fund, $1,700 raised for her by children and faculty at a Mattapan middle school, and $9,000 from an online fund-raiser, Wark said.

That fund-raiser, created on the GoFundMe website, refers to Leigh in the third person, but appears to have been created and maintained using her e-mail address, Wark said.

Investigators who reviewed video surveillance, witness testimony, and medical and financial records found that Leigh was at the Marathon on April 15, 2013, but that she was not injured, according to Wark.

Boston Police Commissioner William B. Evans praised the investigators’ “exceptional work” and castigated Leigh.

“I saw first-hand the injuries true victims suffered on that day,” Evans said. “Ms. Leigh saw an opportunity to take advantage of kind-hearted individuals who wanted to help those victims.”

Leigh is not the first person charged with trying to falsely claim money meant for Marathon victims.

Brothers Branden Mattier and Domunique Grice were convicted in June 2014 of filing a claim on behalf of an aunt who died a decade earlier. Audrea Gause of Troy, N.Y. pleaded guilty to larceny charges last May. Iris Gamble of Linden, N.J. was charged in that state in 2013 with fraud and theft after the fund spotted irregularities in her application.


In a statement, The One Fund said deception should not overshadow its donors’ generosity.“The One Fund Boston takes the view that the goodness of people to help one another in times of crisis should remain our lasting impression following the evil acts from that day two years ago,” it said.

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. David Abel can be reached at david.abel@globe.com.