Food Blogging

Did Jennifer Perillo Use Her Husband’s Death To Swindle Money?

Jennifer Perillo, a food blogger, recently lost her husband. Given the impression that his death had left her and her two small daughters nearly destitute, the tightly knit food blogging community generously banded together to raise over $60,000 to help support her in her widowhood.

Well it turns out the fundraising group allegedly overstated the extent of her financial need. Commenters on a post about how she’s grieving through food are practically accusing her of fraud:

“I agree that Jennifer does have the right to grieve in her own way, and there’s nothing wrong with traveling or spending her own money how she sees fit.
The problem is that people were led to believe that she and her daughters were in immediate financial crisis.  People donated $70k because it was implied that they were losing their health insurance and their home!  It’s evident from her tweets that she’s not only not in any financial crisis, but that she has plenty of disposable income and is probably much better off than many of the people who donated.  I think it’s morally wrong to trick people into donating money.  She should have returned it to the donors or given it to charity.”

“You’re right… I’ve never walked in her $800 boots. Perhaps she’d like to step out in my $13 Keds? Shauna Ahern told people she was LOSING HER HOME. I wonder how many would have donated to her “fund” if they had known the truth of Ms. Perillo’s financial situation?”

Other commenters are defending the way Jennifer is spending her money and telling those who feel grifted…well, in a nutshell, tough luck:

“If you don’t like the way Jen is spending her money, fine. Don’t like it.  Then you shouldn’t have given her any in the first place. Not that it seems that any of you commenting gave her anything at all.  You just sound furious on principal.  Or perhaps furious out of jealousy.”

We continue to be shocked at how people get money out of people on the internet. There are good, hardworking bloggers (many unemployed – and not by choice) who can’t even manage to afford a box of ramen, and people like Anthroholic and Jennifer allegedly scam thousands out of people who trust them. With people like this supposedly bilking people left and right, no wonder it’s so hard to make money just blogging anymore.

  1. avatar KAS

    I don’t really feel bad for people who give money to random strangers on the internet for stuff like this. There’s been 10,000 scams of this nature, but people still feel like they’re smart enough to not get ripped off. Guess what- you aren’t. It’s too easy. If you want to be sure your money will help people, donate to reputable organizations, not people. Otherwise, you might as well just pretend you set your money on fire.

    • avatar Lancelle from Paris

      THANK YOU. I didn’t really feel bad for those scammed in the Anthro DEFCON 1 CRISIS OF THE YEAR and I don’t feel bad for these poor schmucks either. If you’re willing to give your money to an individual, you have to be okay with the possibility that that person may not use the funds as you intended. Otherwise, stick to the Red Cross and call it a day.

      • avatar Missy

        Hate to break it to you, but Red Cross is a bit of a scam.

        The president of Red Cross rakes in approximately $500,000/year in income. That’s just the president.

        • avatar Maggette and Meatballs

          Actually, that’s a reasonable salary for that position and an organization the size of the Red Cross. i work for a non-profit w/ an operating budget of $2.1 million and the E.D. makes $100K.

    • avatar Allison

      I think what people are MOST pissed about it that Jennifer never — NOT ONCE — said thank you. Never wrote a “Thank You” blog post. Never Tweeted a thank you. Never acknowledged the donations or said how grateful she was.

      To get nearly $80,000 (whether you asked for it to be raised or not) and not say “thank you?” She could’ve held off on one of her many shoe-shopping trips to acknowledge the cash.

      That’s why I think this is fishy beyond belief. I didn’t donate a cent because it all sounded too hyperbolic to me when they kicked off the fundraising campaign. Something stinks about this.

      • avatar sue

        There has been international, unsolicited support – written and monetary – for her tragic brutal loss. Her amazing gift of writing has moved and inspired us all the world wide, but after the JFK assasination, even Jackie Kennedy, in less than 1 month, took the time to thank her supporting public. My heart has broken for her and her beautiful little girls, but as we all deal with the tragedies, unfairness and hardships of life, but i must agree, it has been surprising that not even one of herr posts could have been “thank you to the unexpected kindness of strangers”.

      • avatar Dennis

        I saw something somewhere from someone else saying that Jennifer is really grateful for the money and the kindness of strangers blah blah but yeah you’re right, nothing from her directly. Which is pretty blatantly rude, imo.

  2. avatar tankearae

    The kicker is, by pointing out the obvious – that people are often all too willing to give based on a sad story – you get branded “EVIL!!!” It’s sad she lost her husband, yes – but seriously, 60k to someone who didn’t NEED it to survive? Seriously?

  3. avatar catlady4lyfe

    While I’m somewhat appalled by this, I can’t say I’m surprised. I have to at least partially agree with the “tough luck” commenter (though not on the “oh you’re just jealous” part because people who say that are typically assholes).

    After the NE flooding due to Hurricane Irene, a bunch of tumblrs donated more than $2k to another tumblr whose power had been out for a few days after she posted about applying for food stamps. The next weekend she posted about going to a water park, making me incredibly glad I hadn’t opened my wallet.

    With the Perillo situation, they gave money to someone they didn’t know and later felt duped. HOW SHOCKING.

    • avatar The Cabinet of Dr. Bobby

      Are you referring to rosasparks?

      • avatar catlady4lyfe

        I am. And before I get attacked, I’m not saying she didn’t deserve to go to the water park, or even that Jennifer doesn’t deserve her $600 boots if that’s something she wanted and can (obviously) afford. Just that you can’t control how someone spends the money you fork over to them.

        • avatar DonnieDriveBy

          As someone who donated, I don’t mind how she spent it. I gave to help out someone I “know” who happened into unfortunate circumstances.

          I also agree with you 100% though. If you’re giving someone a gift to do with as they please, you can’t turn around and cry foul when they do just that.

  4. avatar C/O Coach Clodhoppers

    What’s that old saying? A fool and his money will soon be parted?

    Don’t give money to people you’ve never met on the Internet and expect to be rewarded by what they choose to do with it.

  5. avatar Miss Noir

    I take more issue with the people who organized the fundraiser, than with Jennifer. Though, it does take an enormous lack of self awareness to take to Twitter like she has when she was just gifted such a huge amount of money.

    • avatar KAS

      Well, she is grieving. People don’t always make the best decisions when they’re in pain. Another reason not to drop huge piles of unrestricted money into their laps.

      • avatar Miss Noir

        That’s true. People do some really strange things while grieving.

        • avatar KAS

          Some of the 9/11 widows had the same issue- all sorts of money fell into their laps.

          • avatar Give it a human touch. Everybody likes that.

            Thanks for posting that link. A lot of people deal with grief — especially unexpected death — by becoming completely reckless, doing drugs, having lots of sex with random people, spending money like crazy because they just got hit with the message that there is no tomorrow to save for. I feel really sad for Jennifer and I wish her friends would back off with the fundraising efforts and sob stories because it’s exposing her (and her spending habits) to scrutiny and scorn. I clicked on the donate button on Gluten Free Girl and it goes to Blogger Without Borders… who knows if Jennifer has actually spent or even seen any of that money?

          • A girl I knew in school went absolutely crazy after she survived a plane crash. She was a good Baptist girl previously, daughter of the music minister. After the crash she got settlement money and started spending like crazy, doing drugs and partying. I guess it was a combination of survivor’s guilt and realizing she should have fun while she could.

      • avatar GrumpyRD

        Seriously. I’m sure if my husband died unexpectedly, buying a pair of crazy expensive shoes might sound pretty reasonable. Imagine being brokenhearted-if you think a trip or a pair of shoes might help alleviate the pain, the cost wouldn’t be an issue. even if that is a terrible life plan, overall.

        • avatar Lucky

          Yeah but you’er missing the whole point: She did it on DONATED money.

          • avatar Give it a human touch. Everybody likes that.

            No she didn’t… as stated below, she hasn’t received the GFG/BWB funds yet.

  6. avatar GrumpyRD

    What I don’t get is that people who receive money ALWAYS post what asinine thing they are spending it on EVERY SINGLE TIME. Is your sense of entitlement so strong that you can’t think “hmmm. maybe I shouldn’t broadcast all the dumb shit I bought “?

  7. avatar Give it a human touch. Everybody likes that.

    I’m confused… I’ve been reading Jennifer’s blog for a while and I haven’t seen her make any claims about how destitute she is on it. Maybe other bloggers (Bloggers Without Borders?) got caught up in soliciting donations and Jennifer was too busy attending to other things (like her grieving children) to pay much attention.
    Trust me, I don’t go around giving money to strangers over the Internet because I’m wary of scams, but I also don’t want to run off and compare Jennifer to Anthroholic, who was a repeat liar who came very close to committing (or actually did commit) a felony by exploiting her readers’ greedy desire for ugly, cheap clothes.

    • avatar Allison

      You’re right — she never asked for the money. Other bloggers started tweeting and blogging about it. Shauna Ahern (Gluten Free Girl) was the ringleader. She Tweeted things like “Jennifer is going to lose her house and health insurance!” And her 90,000 followers believed her. It was a freight train of lies and deception.

  8. avatar self help

    That is disgusting. She basically won the lottery because her husband died.

    • avatar RollsRoyceRockerfellerWashingtonVanderbiltOgslanderStuyvesantMurphyRevenge

      I wouldn’t call $70K a good trade-off for my spouse dying and leaving me with two children.

      • avatar melissa


        • avatar melissa

          oops. referring to $70k is NOT a good trade off for losing a spouse.

          • avatar self help

            I never said it was a “good trade off.” Please don’t put words in my mouth, thanks.

  9. avatar alicat

    Jennifer Perillo may have had very little input on the fundraiser itself–I fault the organizers (especially some individuals, such as Gluten-Free Girl, who seem to have exaggerated the case wildly) for putting together something so unnecessary and patting themselves on the back for it. Though it would have been more tasteful for Ms. Perillo to then openly donate the funds to a heart disease foundation or a real charity.

    • avatar Shrug Bitch

      Yeah, I’m not a follower of Jennie and only heard about what happened through other bloggers (GFG and 3 Many Cooks, mostly). I was definitely under the impression (based on what was written) that her husband was the breadwinner and this money was going to be used for their kids and blah blah blah….but I also can’t fault Jennie on how the money is being spent (if it has gotten to her) simply because I have never been in her position and have no way of knowing how I would react if I was.

    • avatar Lucky

      Yeah, but COME ON. She could’ve said, “Hey, this is great, I really appreciate it but don’t do this.”

      • avatar alicat

        Oh heck yes, I think she should have said that (or should still say that now … I don’t think she’s ever posted anything public about the fundraising efforts).

  10. avatar JFA

    I don’t get why people are giving this bidge a pass. Fine it’s dumb to part with your money to some internet stranger but I’m sure there was an element of trust built up with her readers and she exploited it. She doesn’t get a pass because some of her readers are both sympathetic and dumb. She should have never accepted such large sums of money if she clearly did not need it, and it’s questionable she should have accepted it even if she DID. Have some damn dignity.

    • avatar Give it a human touch. Everybody likes that.

      I’ve read In Jennie’s Kitchen for a while, and followed each post since her husband died. I haven’t seen any pleas for money or woe-is-me rants about her financial situation. It’s just been reflections on her grief, with a few recipes in the more recent posts. If anything, I think Gluten Free Girl is at fault here. She’s the one who wrote the “poor (literally) Jennifer” post and she’s the one who is collecting money. Has the money even made it to Jennifer?

      • avatar Abbie

        I don’t read either of those blogs but if that is the case she should not take the money. If she didn’t ask for it and she doesn’t need it, she definitely should not accept it.

        • avatar JFA

          Exactly. Why accept it? Accepting it was obviously wrong. Regardless of if she asked for it or not. I don’t even like accepting extravagant gifts from family/people I know/men I am dating.

        • avatar self help


  11. This actually makes me super sad. I don’t really know Jennifer’s story and have never read her blog but the idea that someone could ruin soemthing like this is pretty devastating. I was absolutely amazed at all the people that pulled together for Susan at The Great Balancing Act when she was diagnosed with cancer and unsure of how much she would have to pay out of pocket. She was so gracious and vowed to donate any leftover funds to cancer programs. It’s a shame that one person’s actions in a similar situation could hinder future efforts to people that actually need, and appreciate, other’s help.

  12. avatar Dennis

    I’ve been following this all along and have not seen anything from Jennifer about her financial situation. Glutenfree Girl (Shauna Ahern) posted that she could lose her home because the title was in her husband’s name only (why??) and I think something about health insurance for the kids, too. Another blogger said that her husband really wanted her to be able to blog about food for a living, and that as much as anything else spurred the food blogger community to donate. Food blogging for a living seems like a real luxury to me. It’s not as if the world needs another food blog, for godsakes. The market is more than saturated with food blogs.

    Bloggers Without Borders sort of oversaw (big SORT OF) the auctions but as far as I can tell there has been no accounting for them and no followup. They provided little to no information about tax issues with donations. They have also not put forth anywhere near this kind of effort for individuals and groups who have needed help far worse than Jennifer Perillo. I think if you’re going to put yourself out there as an aid organization, you should at least have the basic framework in place for these kinds of issues.

    • avatar KAS

      “Donations” to an individual person aren’t tax-deductible. They’re a gift, not a donation.

      • avatar Dennis

        Well that’s interesting because BWB has this on its website:

        “Bloggers without Borders is a newly-incorporated nonprofit organization and we are in the process of filing our application for recognition of tax-exempt status with the IRS, which can take up to 10 months. The law allows tax-exempt status to be retroactive to the date of incorporation.

        If you wish to declare your donation as tax-deductible on your income or gift tax returns, please complete the form below.”

        So I guess if you sent money directly to Perillo, it’s not tax-exempt but if you send it to the organization (and I use that term losely) that sort of hosted the whole thing, then it is exempt? But they say they are “in the process” of filling out their application for tax-exempt status, so who knows.

        • avatar Allison

          Bloggers Without Borders doesn’t show up in the IRS database of approved 501c3s or pending 501c3s.


        • avatar It's Always Shitty in Donkadelphia

          Donations would need to be made TO a non-profit organization “IN HONOR OF:____”.

          Whether donations in this particular case become eligible for tax-deduction remains to be seen, but if & when the organization itself doesn’t provide disclosure of disbursements to previous & potential donors, something is already questionable.

          IF they were handling donations in such a way as to bear up under scrutiny, the way to go would be to process disbursement of funds in such a way that they’re w/out doubt used for the intended purpose, i.e. sent directly to the mortgage company or for incurred health care costs.

          It all sounds pretty damn shady at first blush, not that I’m convinced the person on the receiving end is most at fault ~ this shenanigan deserves an audit.

          • avatar It's Always Shitty in Donkadelphia

            Gotcha. I take issue w/ the fact that people were led to believe they were keeping a roof over head &/or keeping kids insured. The right thing to do would be to contact each donor & ask if they prefer that their money go into a college fund or be refunded ~ the first obligation is to prove that donations aren’t used for anything except their intended purpose.

            Also, what about the tax implications? I wonder if Jennifer is prepared to pay income tax on this windfall?

    • avatar snailsausage

      Jennifer is the one who tweeted about possibly losing her health insurance and her home. I’m not going to go back to see if those tweets are still there because I suspect she’s erased them but she did tweet it so even though Shauna annoys me to no end, stop blaming her for the posts. It was Jennie who initially said it.

  13. avatar marezdotes

    I actually donated to Jennifer for several reasons.

    Firstly because I know what it’s like to have 2 small children and have your husband pass away and then deal with the financial s**t storm that follows. I know first hand what it’s like to lose everything (including your home) because the main bread winner is gone, I know how scary it is to have a sick child and no freaking medical insurance, and I know how humiliating it is to come home from getting the kids at school to a notice that the power’s been shut off. Been there, done that, didn’t even get the proverbial t shirt. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

    I also donated because I am friends with several of the large bloggers that were pleading her case. These are people I know personally and whose judgement I trust implicitly…if they said that she was going to lose everything then I had no reason not to believe them.

    Reading this post made me feel like a bit of a rube, but that’s okay, I’ll live. I liken it to giving money to a homeless person: we’d like to think the person is going to spend the cash on food and shelter, but more than likely it’s going towards booze or drugs (or in this case really fabulous, expensive boots).

    Caveat emptor.

    • avatar JFA

      No it’s actually not like giving money to a homeless person. Jesus. This woman is obviously not homeless. And doesn’t seem destitute. So it’s exactly unlike giving it to someone who literally has nothing.

      • avatar Jordan is still the worst

        Seriously. How do people fail to see the distinction?

      • avatar melissa

        poor frame of reference. To someone who doesn’t know any homeless people, or has never been homeless, it’s very hard to imagine. comparisons made are just based on what they have ‘seen’ on tv/movies/heard about/saw for 30 seconds on the street.

    • avatar New Year New You

      She lives in New York, there’s Child Health Plus, it costs next to nothing to get medical treatment for children, like £30 a month. People are really dumb.

      Also, did her husband not have life insurance? Figure if you can afford to live in Carroll Gardens you can afford life insurance. And if you can’t afford life insurance don’t have kids.

      So many people end up completely alone and in shit through no fault of their own, and nobody helps them. So if you’re a bullshit blogger now do you end up higher up the food chain of life?

      • avatar melondrama

        If only there was some type of insurance that could prevent these types of situations, so the bereaved wouldn’t have to squeeze money out of their friends/family/blog readers in order to eat/live/support their families…

        Oh wait. There is.

        It’s called LIFE INSURANCE.

        • I’m one of the most fiscally irresponsible people you’ll ever meet and I even have a decent life insurance policy. It’s $30 a month. That’s 6 frappes.

    • avatar pixie

      My big issue isn’t how she’s spending. It’s this: unless you’re very rich, you probably have a pretty small budget for giving money away to other people. I don’t have bunches of money that isn’t already budgeted for my own necessities, so I have to apply some kind of criteria for how I give any extra money away. If someone is suffering on the street (because of whatever – hunger, sickness from withdrawal, etc.), or someone is really in danger of losing her home or her kids’ medical insurance, I want to prioritize that situation. Sure, if I like or relate to someone, even if it’s “just” online, I might help them out if they’re going through some bad shit, even if it’s not a life-or-death situation, but I don’t want to do that at the expense of someone else who might be in seriously dire straits.

      I’m trying to withhold judgment about the shoes and dinners. That’s not really my business. But the organizers of this fundraiser were incredibly disingenuous about Jennifer’s financial situation, and it seems like she let that happen. The issue isn’t how she’s spending money. It’s what people thought they were contributing to. It’s not right not to give people the chance to make a decision based on actual truth. I’m sure many people would have donated anyway, but some wouldn’t have, and that’s their right.

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