Xahra Saleem of Romford, Essex, cashed out on over £30,000 in donations, spending it all on lifestyle items including rent, hair and beauty appointments, an iPhone, an iMac, Amazon purchases, and more, the Daily Mail reports. Bristol Crown Court caught wind that she even spent almost £6,000 on Uber rides.
In total, the 23-year-old activist took in £32,344 of donation money from 558 contributors. The money was supposed to go to charity.
Saleem confessed to the fraud after a police probe was launched into a GoFundMe page entitled 'BristBLM,' which was set up prior to the toppling of Colston's statue. She is now set to serve a 2.5-year jail sentence.
When defending Saleem, Tom Edwards explained that she was "extremely sorry" for what happened and that she had been only 20 years old when she was granted access to a huge amount of money. She also was said to have been consuming drugs and drinking heavily at the time, while also grappling with mental health issues.
Prosecutor Haggerty characterized Saleem as a "prominent figure" of the city during her sentencing and noted that she had "succumbed to temptation" as she bought personal lifestyle items.
Upon being pressed as to why the money was never given to the charity it claimed to support, Saleem claimed that BLM had instructed her not to do so, among other things, according to the outlet.
Some who were involved with Saleem's statue-teardown plot were left distraught at her crimes and said that the community at large no longer trusts them after the incident.
"This felt like our chance to really have an impact," Rebecca Scott, who has received an award for assisting underprivileged communities in Bristol, told the Daily Mail.
She said that she and others were "blown away" by the amount of money donated but do not feel "complicit" with Saleem's crimes.
Saleem, who is now apologetic for her crimes, initially pleaded not guilty to the two fraud charges when the case first began.
Judge Michael Longman told Saleem that her "dishonest behaviour continued for a substantial amount of time."
"There were a large number of victims," he said. "You must have realised how much your behaviour would affect so many people."