She once appeared in the national press as the face of the surviving victims of the April 15, 2013, Boston Marathon bombing. But on Monday, Joanna Leigh, 41, is to appear before a judge in Boston for arraignment. She faces multiple charges for allegedly fraudulently collecting $36,700 from charity groups and the Massachusetts crime victims’ compensation fund.
“I saw first-hand the injuries true victims suffered on that day,” Boston Police Commissioner William B. Evans said in a statement announcing the arraignment Thursday. “Ms. Leigh saw an opportunity to take advantage of kind-hearted individuals who wanted to help those victims.”
Investigators said Leigh, who was formally indicted by a Suffolk County grand jury last month, was a spectator at the marathon when two bombs exploded, killing three people and injuring 260. While many of the survivors endured life-altering amputations, Leigh allegedly walked home that day free of physical injury. Police said she did not seek medical treatment for about two weeks. She referred to herself as a hero for running toward the second explosion, prosecutors claim.
Leigh reportedly received $8,000 from One Fund Boston charity group, $1,700 from a local middle school charity fundraiser and more than $9,000 from an account opened at GoFundMe.com, an online fundraising site that allows people to donate to various causes. “That website refers to Leigh in the third person but evidence suggests it was created, maintained and updated using her email address,” Boston investigators said in a statement.
Leigh is also accused of receiving free dermatology services through a local practice offering the treatment to bombing survivors. Additionally, she collected $18,000, from the state of Massachusetts Victims of Violent Crime Compensation fund, which led to a sixth count of making false statements to the government.
The Washington Post profiled Leigh in October 2013 in an article about the difficulties the bombing victims were having in collecting money from the $80 million One Fund charity. In the article, Leigh claims difficulties driving, hearing and seeing, as well as challenges doing laundry and other basic household chores. The Post said a doctor examined her on the day of the bombing and diagnosed her with traumatic brain injuries.
Boston investigators said Leigh attempted to claim $2 million in injury compensation from the state, but “refused” to release medical records to authenticate her claims.
Leigh’s arraignment hearing coincides with the trial of accused bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who faces the death penalty if found guilty of planting the homemade pressure-cooker bombs at the marathon. Tsarnaev and his brother, Tamerlan, are believed to have committed this act of terrorism after adopting radical Islamic ideology. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in Watertown, Massachusetts, April 19, 2015, either from multiple gunshot wounds or from injuries suffered when his brother accidentally ran over him as he fled the scene. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was discovered hours later in a boat parked in a yard, wounded but alive.