An Arvada man who has previously sought political office and been involved in a slew of civil lawsuits has been charged with multiple felonies stemming from his attempt to set up a fraudulent …
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An Arvada man who has previously sought political office and been involved in a slew of civil lawsuits has been charged with multiple felonies stemming from his attempt to set up a fraudulent GoFundMe account in the name of a defendant in one of his civil suits.
Joshua Jered Rodriguez, 37, was charged with nine counts of identity theft, one count of forgery and one count of cybercrime (attempt) in Oct. of 2020 and two counts of attempting to influence a public servant in Dec. of 2020.
Rodriguez did not attend his scheduled court appearance on May 5 and a warrant for his arrest was issued on May 10. His whereabouts are still unknown to law enforcement as of Aug. 6.
“(Rodriguez) failed to appear and a warrant was issued for his arrest,” said Colorado Judicial Department Public Relations Officer Rob McCallum. “The next court date will depend on when he gets picked up and where. Any law enforcement agency anywhere can arrest him on the warrant and then have his transferred back to Colorado.”
According to an arrest affidavit filed by Arvada Police Detective J. Grimes on April 5, Rodriguez is accused of setting up multiple GoFundMe accounts in the name of Julia Vitanyi, the moderator of the popular Arvada Neighbors Facebook group. Rodriguez was removed from the group page after using it to solicit donations for his city council campaign — a violation of the group’s rules.
In June 2020, Vitanyi was served in reference to a civil lawsuit filed by Rodriguez for “slander” pertaining to Rodriguez’s ban from the group. Rodriguez sought $100,000 in damages in the civil suit and filed a similar civil lawsuit against Julia Walker — also a member of the Arvada Neighbors group — in May 2020.
Vitanyi hired a lawyer to represent her in the civil lawsuit and subsequently created a GoFundMe campaign which she shared in Arvada Neighbors to help cover her attorney fees. The campaign, titled “Help Julia Vitanyi with Legal Fees” went live on Sept. 2, 2020 and received $5,699 in donations as of Jan. 22, 2021.
On October 23, 2020, Vitanyi searched her name in GoFundMe’s search engine to check the progress of her campaign and found a nearly identical fundraiser with the same title and description lifted word-for-word from the first paragraph of her campaign. Upon discovering this, Vitanyi alerted the Arvada Police Department and GoFundMe support.
In addition to contacting law enforcement, Vitanyi also talked to her friends about the fraudulent fundraisers, two of whom used the “contact” link in the GoFundMe campaigns to reach out to the organizer.
One of Vitanyi’s friends received a $5,000 PayPal request from the campaign’s organizer via the email used to set up one of the fraudulent fundraisers; firstname.lastname@example.org. Another of Vitanyi’s friends received a response, but not a money request from email@example.com.
Grimes filed a records request with Google and found that the recovery phone number listed with the firstname.lastname@example.org email address belonged to Rodriguez. By Oct. 27, 2020, both fraudulent GoFundMe accounts had been suspended prior to any funds being donated.
On October 9, 2020, Rodriguez contacted APD to file a police report claiming that Vitanyi had committed fraud by creating the Arvada Neighbors Facebook group, as Rodriguez posited that he owned a nonprofit group with the same name.
On Jan. 21, Rodriguez came to meet with an APD detective in reference to his complaint against Vitanyi. Rodriguez was then confronted with APD’d evidence of his fraudulent GoFundMe accounts and advised him of his Miranda Rights. Rodriguez declined to make any further statement, was processed and booked, and later released pending charges.
For her part, Vitanyi said the Arvada community has supported her throughout the process.
“The response from the community leaders has been amazing,” said Vitanyi. “I tried my best not to put myself and the case out there too much, but I did get overwhelming support from people. I think everybody was happy to help support the cause against him because he has gone after several women in our community and he just kind of gets away with what he does.”
Vitanyi said that she wasn’t sure what Rodriguez’s goal with all of this was and expressed worry for wherever he ends up.
“That’s the most concerning part about him,” said Vitanyi, “I don’t know what his end game is and he just seems very unpredictable with what he does. I’m concerned for whatever community he moves to next.”
While Rodriguez’s whereabouts are still unknown, a Twitter account believed to belong to him was active as of Aug. 6. The account, which describes Rodriguez as an “Independent journalist archiving current events” in the bio, was set to private as of Aug. 9.
Rodriguez did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
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