I-TEAM: South Bay woman refuses to provide proof of $26K college fundraiser for girl who lost father

LOS GATOS, Calif. (KGO) -- The ABC7 I-Team is investigating complaints of at least $26,000 of donations raised for a young girl after her father died yet to be delivered.

"I miss him a lot, I really do," said Briana West staring a picture of her late father, Joshua West.

West, an avid cyclist, was struck and killed by an unlicensed driver in Los Gatos back in 2010.

Briana was 7 years old at the time.

"Sorry, I'm getting emotional," she said tearing up as she remembers how her father would bike her to school every day. "I really miss him."

After the accident, Margaret Petros, a victim's advocate with Mothers Against Murder stepped in to ensure Briana was in good hands. She was pleased to see a close family friend, Ashley Cushman, set up a memorial fund in honor of West.

"All funds will be sent to his 7-year-old daughter -- that's Briana West," Petros said reading one of the news articles.

Reports indicated donations could be sent to a PayPal account or a Wells Fargo account. According to the family, two weeks after the accident at least $26,000 was raised for Briana.

Petros confirmed to ABC7 after the Joshua West Memorial Fund was opened only under Cushman's name. She said there was no mention of Briana West in the Wells Fargo account.

Petros: "Following the accident, I couldn't get ahold of Ashley."

Stephanie: "How many times did you try to reach her?"

Petros: "10 times... I called, texted, emailed."

Petros said she was initially told the funds are being kept for Briana until she turns 18.

"I believed her at first, but as a knowledgeable victims advocate I wanted proof of that and I did not get it," she said.

In 2015, a Stanford pro bono attorney sent a letter to Cushman seeking to confirm if a constructive trust for the donated funds was created and if Briana was made the sole beneficiary.

"When she did not respond to that, it was over for me," said Petros.

Briana turned 18 this past May and recently got accepted to Washington State.

"I was hoping to use the money to go to college," said Briana.

Briana told ABC7 she had difficulty getting ahold of Cushman shortly before her birthday. Eventually a month after first reaching out, Cushman requested to hear from Briana's lawyer.

"She was refusing to meet with her," Petros said.

ABC7 reached out to Cushman for an interview, but didn't hear back.

Our team later showed up at her home and spoke with her husband.

Stephanie: "Do you know where the money is?"

Cushman: "I need to go back to work..."

Stephanie: "I understand that... but it's a simple question. This account was closed several years ago."

Cushman: "I don't know... you need to contact my wife."

Stephanie: "Can you confirm the money isn't gone?"

Cushman: "I haven't heard anything, I know the money was in the bank account. As far as I know."

Ashley Cushman declined our follow-up interview and claims she hasn't spent a dime. But, she has refused to provide proof of the funds in the account and the subsequent interest accrued over the past 10 years. Meanwhile, the PayPal account appears to no longer be active.

"It's very troubling," said Dawn Ward, a certified family law specialist. "If you're intending to give a gift to a specific beneficiary, you want to ensure the funds are transferred into an account that has legal supervision or an account that was blocked."

If an account is blocked the financial institution would be charged with ensuring the funds donated are to go to benefit the minor. But, Petros said neither of those actions were taken on behalf of Briana.

"It breaks my heart," Briana said. "My dad would've never wanted this."

Since our attempts to interview Cushman, she has promised to transfer the money owed to Briana.

The ABC7 I-Team will keep following the story to see if that happens.

Take a look at for a look at more stories by Dan Noyes and the ABC7 News I-Team.
Copyright © 2020 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.