KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Kansas City area woman who has become the national face of the long haul COVID community is now under scrutiny.
Some say she might be deceiving the very people she purports to be helping.
FOX4 Problem Solvers went to a rundown trailer in rural Kansas to get answers from Amanda Finley. She’s been featured in Rolling Stone magazine, USA Today, local radio stations and even on FOX4 — talking about her struggle to live a normal life with long haul COVID symptoms.
“It’s a nightmare. A lot of us are homeless. We aren’t able to get work. It takes forever to get on disability. People are going without food. They are going without medication,” Finley told FOX4 in August.
But since then, some long haulers are speaking out, saying they no longer believe Finley. They’re questioning who she’s really raising money for.
“When I put the two and two together, I saw all of her GoFundMes at the same time,” Cynthia Adinig said. “She’s claiming she’s homeless.”
Adinig, who has long haul COVID symptoms, met Finley on a Facebook group Finley created for long haul COVID survivors. It has more than 14,000 members. Right away, Adinig said she had questions about Finley.
“Some of the things she was saying just didn’t make sense,” Adinig said.
For starters, Finley’s background is unusual. She claims to be an archaeologist, an opera singer and a certified nursing assistant.
But Adinig said she really became concerned when Finley kept asking everyone in the Facebook group for money.
In total, Finley has at least eight GoFundMe and other crowdfunding accounts: three to raise money for her own COVID-19 fight, three to get back custody of her son, and two for a man named Jake who Finley claimed was almost homeless because of COVID.
So many of Finley’s posts are a plea for money that some long-haulers started to complain.
Finley told group members and FOX4 that just the COVID-19 crowdfunding accounts have brought in more than $15,000 — money she said she’s shared with those who are struggling.
Critics have also begun to question what Finley posts on social media.
For example, she shared the story of a young registered nurse named Maddy Rose. Finley said Maddy was hospitalized in South Dakota with complications from long haul COVID-19. She also shared posts from a physicians assistant named Jill, who was caring for Maddy. Finley posted frequently about the two of them.
Finley even got actress Morgan Fairchild to send Maddy a video wishing her well.
Then one day, Finley shared the sad news that Maddy had died. That surprised many in long haulers who know how rare death is in their community, particularly the death of someone so young.
People started becoming suspicious when they couldn’t find an obituary. They couldn’t even find a registered nurse in South Dakota named Maddy Rose, and they couldn’t find Maddy’s friend Jill either.
“As soon as we started asking questions, the Maddy account and the Jill account both got deleted,” Adinig said.
FOX4 however did verify the existence of Jake, who has since passed away. Finley started two online fundraisers for him.
But then there’s the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Finley started, COVID-19 Long Haulers Outreach. She encouraged people to use it to make tax-deductible donations to help other long-haulers.
Except Problem Solvers couldn’t find the charity on the IRS database.
It’s just one of the many reasons FOX4 paid Finley a visit at her home in Leona, Kansas, hoping to get answers.
Finley said the GoFundMe accounts were mostly created by other people.
“I did not want them, and that money that was donated to me went straight back into the community because I don’t feel right taking money in this community,” she said.
Finley said she kept a record of everything, so Problem Solvers asked to see them. She couldn’t find them on her computer but promised to send them to us later. We never received anything.
As for the nonprofit, Finley said she had a friend handle it.
“No, the person that I had entrusted to do that, I don’t know,” she said. “I jut let her go with it.”
Problem Solvers asked to talk to that friend to find out what happened to the nonprofit. Finley promised to put us in touch with her but never did.
Finally, we wanted to know who Maddy really was and why people were having such a hard time finding any proof of her existence.
What Finley said might surprise some since she shared dozens of posts about both Maddy and Jill.
“I don’t know anything about Maddy,” Finley told FOX4. “I wish I did know more about Maddy, but I don’t.”
And as for those who believe it was Finley posing as Maddy, Finley had this to say: “Yeah, some people do. That would be a colossal waste of my time. I mean we’ve got serious work to do.”
She’s focused on helping those in the long haul COVID community, but some in that group said they no longer want Finley’s help.
“Amanda destroyed the trust of her own community,” Adinig said.
But Finley insists all she’s doing is devoting her life to raising awareness of the long-term effects of a serious disease.