In mid-February a fundraising event was held called the “Love is in the Air – Dota 2 Celebrity Charity Challenge.” The money it raised – more than $2000 – was ostensibly to benefit a charity called Child’s Play. To those unfamiliar with it, Child’s Play works with hospitals to provide recreation for sick, ailing children. But none of the money raised from the “Love is in the Air” fundraiser reached Child’s Play, or by extension those children’s hospitals and the children within them. Rather, that money was stolen by the person who created and devised the “Love is in the Air” fundraiser, one Emily “Sayuri” Weiss.
In early February, I had been living with both Sayuri and Michael “Cakes” Nakama for some months. Both I and Sayuri paid our rent to Cakes rather than to the landlord directly, and by February Sayuri was nearly three months overdue on rent. For more than a month, I’d been purchasing all of her meals. Despite having seemingly wealthy parents, it was clear that for some reason she had no money.
Then, in mid-February, I received this series of texts from her. In it, she said that her parents had transferred money to a Paypal account and that she needed my bank account information to withdraw the money. This took place, as you’ll note, only a few days after the charity event.
Stupidly, I gave her my bank account information. As it turned out, however, she simply used the “Send Money” feature on Paypal to pay Cakes and I back directly through Paypal, rather than withdrawing the money to a bank account. To me she intimated that, not needing it, she had discarded my bank account information, and for a few months I forgot that this series of events had even taken place.
In May I discovered that sixty dollars was missing from my bank account. If it wasn’t already obvious to me who had stolen it, being that only one other person knew my bank account information, my bank statement listed a transaction for sixty dollars that I didn’t recognize but made obvious, clear as day, whom the culprit was. That is, sixty dollars had been transferred from my bank account to a Paypal account unsubtly named “Emily Weiss.”
Now, some months earlier Sayuri had given me the password to her Steam account so that we could swap accounts and play DotA under each other’s names. And I think that nested within this story about the unscrupulous embezzlement of charity money is a cautionary tale about the importance of password security. Because not only was this sequence of characters the password she used for her Steam account, but also the password for literally all of her other online accounts, including multiple email accounts, Facebook, Skype and, lastly, Paypal. So, getting into her Paypal account and confirming that, in fact, she had taken the sixty dollars from my bank account (and spent it to purchase Diablo III) was trivially easy.
But looking through her Paypal history, something startled me. As I expected, this was the same account that she had used to pay her rent to Cakes, as well as some of her debt to me. But I also expected to see that she had received a large transfer of money – an amount somewhere in the thousands – from her parents. Instead, what I saw was that she had received very many payments of highly varying amounts from very many different people, all on the same day as the “Love is in the Air” fundraising event. You can view the full PDF of her Paypal account activity for February here[/URL]. If you donated, your name is probably on it – sorry, if you’re uncomfortable with that.
Anyway, by that point it had already become obvious to me what had happened, and what she’d done. Sifting through some of the aforementioned email accounts yielded me this telling email from Jamie Dillion who, if you haven’t watched any PATV, manages the Child’s Play charity for Penny Arcade. In it, she responds to a request from Sayuri to feature the “Love is in the Air” tournament on the Child’s Play event calendar, saying that the “Love is in the Air” ChipIn widget is directing donations toward a third-party email address – ultimately, Sayuri’s Paypal account – rather than to Child’s Play itself.
This is everything I know about what happened. I’ve tried to contact Child’s Play to confirm with them that the money was not paid to them, but so far they’ve been uncooperative. I think it may be because I am just one person with no real relation to any established DotA organization, and if someone with a more significant presence within the DotA community were to try to corroborate the information I’ve posted here with Child’s Play, it would be extremely helpful. Still, I think that this is enough information to establish the truth.
Lastly, I’d like to say a couple of things personally. The first is that, writing this right now, I’m the only person who knows about this, and I’m unsure. I’m unsure if the seriousness of this thing is as great as I believe it is. But if it is, and, as I expect, there is much melodrama ahead, with all the finger-pointing and gnashing of teeth and anger that entails, I’d like everyone to remember an important fact. And that is that dozens of DotA players donated thousands of dollars to the fundraiser within a single day, and all this despite being poorly advertised and hastily conceived by a single sociopath whose only interest was in robbing it anyway. There is some good here.
Secondly, I’d like to say that I hope everyone believes me when I say that I had no idea that this was going on. To both me and Cakes, she had used the pretense of her parents paying for her living expenses. In total, Sayuri sent about $420 to my Paypal account, but everything except $200 I returned to her as cash, because she needed the money. Even if I hadn’t, it wouldn’t have covered what she owed me. Still, I find it discomfiting. I dislike the feeling that I may have somehow profited off of the exploitation of sick or dying children, and I’ve decided the right thing to do is return that $200 back to Child’s Play. If you’re reading this, consider donating too. It really is a good cause.
Okay, that’s it. If you have any questions I’ll try to answer them.