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Families question donation Facebook page

Posted at 6:45 PM, Apr 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-05 18:45:04-04

A woman living in Buffalo says she is on a mission to help families in need, but some families are now calling her a fraud.

In October, 7 Eyewitness News introduced you to Julissa Soto, who told us she was collecting donations on her Facebook page and giving them to struggling families for free. Now, some of those families, including Kristen and Steve Myers, are coming out saying they never received anything.

"A lot of stuff were donated to our family and we received none of it," said Kristen.

It was a cry for help for her and her husband, who say they lost more than $12,000 worth of things in their house robbery back in August. But when Soto said she could help, they thought their prayers had been answered.

"Our kids were already traumatized by the house robbery, and then we told them that we had some nice people that were going to help us and we had to take that back," said Kristen. "She started collecting donations for our family, she was supposed to drop off the donations February 4th."

But Kristen says that day never came for her, or hundreds of other members who she says were promised anything from clothes, to laptops, to food through the Facebook page. When reaching out to Soto, she did not want to be interviewed, but denied ever promising these donations.

Bernice Ciluik and Rosann Meier, who's friends and family were also promised items, thought something had to be done. When they saw several full trash bags on Soto's sidewalk, they took action.

"I just wanted to grab them because I didn't want to take the chance if they were donations of the garbage men taking them," said Ciluik.

They did a Facebook Live while opening those 19 bags. Those who had donated things recognized their own items being pulled out of the bags.

"There was food, clothes for babies, blankets, sheets, stuff that could've been donated," said Meier. "Why throw it in the garbage? I'm still overwhelmed about it!"

"Some of the things that were donated to us were in those bags, too," said Kristen.

Over the phone, Soto tells 7 Eyewitness News she had to throw those bags out because her basement had flooded. Ciluik says most of the things were usable. Now she's trying to get these items back to the families who needed them in the first place.