Bank statements provided in Maegan Barras lawsuit raise questions about how she spent donated money | Law courts

Documents provided by a Broussard woman at the heart of a right to life lawsuit have raised questions about how she spent the money raised to help pay for her husband’s care.

Maegan Adkins Barras, who is trying to prove in court why she should retain legal guardianship of her husband, Joshua Barras, has regularly taken to social media to solicit donations for her medical treatments. According to the bank statements she provided to the court, little money was spent on her medical expenses.

While it’s unclear whether she has other accounts showing how she received and spent money, Maegan Barras spent nearly $300,000 over three years at casinos – on multiple occasions, depositing hundreds of dollars from online payment services on the same dates that she hired an ATM and an overdraft. charges from her bank for gambling more money than she had in her accounts.

Lawyers Jessica Reaux and Michael Domingue Jr., who represent Maegan Barras, said in an email to The Acadiana Advocate that it’s nobody’s business what their client does in her spare time.

“Would people’s tone change if I said she won over $300,000 in casinos and online gambling?” Reals wrote. “Would it be different if she was considered a professional poker player?

Reaux also said it was “simply not true” that Maegan Barras didn’t spend any of the donated funds on Joshua Barras, but Reaux didn’t give details.

Joshua Barras, 38, has been in a state of minimal consciousness since November 2018, when he suffered brain damage after attempting to kill himself in Lafayette prison.

The man’s mother, Kelly Barras, fought in state district court for custody of her son. Kelly Barras alleges that Maegan Barras does not have Joshua Barras’ best interests at heart and that Maegan Barras is exploiting him for his own financial gain.

The case drew national attention last year when Joshua Barras’ wife and mother argued on social media, in court and even on ‘Dr Phil’ over who really cares about the cases. best human interests. The situation has also drawn interest from a nonprofit created by the brother of Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman whose case captured the nation in 2005 after her husband won the right to remove the tube from feeding the woman against the wishes of her parents.

Maegan Barras has raised at least $15,000 through a dozen online fundraisers for Joshua Barras, and she is regularly approached for donations on social media platforms like TikTok, where she has gained 1 million followers for her videos.

Prior to her husband’s suicide attempt, Maegan and Joshua Barras had a rocky relationship which is documented in arrests and court records. They first married in 2015 and later accused each other of domestic abuse before filing for divorce the same year. They remarried in 2016. Maegan Barras again filed for divorce in March 2018 but withdrew her request in a November 2018 letter to the court days after Joshua Barras attempted suicide.

Maegan Barras gained an instant online following in February 2019 after she was wrongfully arrested and imprisoned for posting a video of a high school fight on social media. Although she regularly posted on social media about her husband’s brain injury and organized at least one online fundraiser in his name before his arrest, Maegan Barras began to experience more success in her efforts to fundraising with its new online follower in the months and years that followed.

The district attorney’s office did not pursue the case, and Maegan Barras later sued the Scott Police Department and the Lafayette Parish School System in federal court for infringing on her rights and causing anguish. mental. Maegan Barras received a $70,000 settlement — $50,000 from the city of Scott and $20,000 from the school system — in August 2020 following that lawsuit.

She also sued the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office and the jail in October 2019 in federal court for her husband’s injuries during his attempted suicide. The lawsuit alleged that prison workers acted against the policy by leaving Joshua Barras alone for 20 minutes in a bathroom. He also alleged that they knew Joshua Barras had a history of suicidal behavior when he attempted to kill himself in the prison toilet. The wrongful death lawsuit is still open and appears to hinge on the outcome of the case in state court over who Joshua Barras’ legal guardian should be.

Maegan Barras began posting on social media in early 2021 about her intention to place Joshua Barras in hospice care and end his life.

It was then that Kelly Barras intervened in court to try to obtain guardianship of her son. Kelly Barras said at the time that she wanted to give Joshua Barras the opportunity to receive medical attention, and if he does not respond within a reasonable time, she will let him die with dignity.

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Upon learning of the case in 2021, the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope network connected Kelly Barras with the Life Legal Defense Foundation, which pays her lawyers.

Maegan Barras’ finances have been the subject of much interest on social media for over a year, but it was only recently that they became the subject of the court case.

Holden Hoggatt, who represents Kelly Barras, pushed to enter Maegan Barras’ financial statements into the court filing during an April 19 hearing before 15th Judicial District Court Judge Valerie Gotch Garrett. Arthur Schafer, the court-appointed attorney representing Joshua Barras, filed a motion in support of Hoggart’s claim.

Reaux and Domingue argued that it would be an invasion of Maegan Barras’ privacy and was irrelevant to the case.

The judge disagreed that the financial statements were irrelevant and ordered Maegan Barras to produce the documents. Garrett also issued a gag order that prevents Maegan Barras and Kelly Barras from discussing Joshua Barras or the court case on social media or with the media.

On Thursday, Garrett sealed financial and medical records related to the case.

The Acadiana Advocate obtained Maegan Barras’ bank statements before the judge’s decision to seal the records. A journalist’s analysis of these statements, which span more than 200 pages from April 2019 to March 2022, revealed a very different picture from the one Maegan Barras painted on social media.

Maegan Barras has deposited approximately $101,000 with GoFundMe, Cash App, PayPal, Venmo, Square and other services frequently used for online fundraising. It is unclear how much of this money was intended to benefit Joshua Barras.

Reaux said the analysis grossly overestimates the amount donors contributed to Joshua Barras’ care.

“Over 90% of those entries that are counted as donations are not donations,” Reaux said in a phone interview. “That will eventually come to light. That’s all I’m going to say about it.”

During the same three-year period, Maegan Barras spent around $295,000 on gambling. About $105,000 of that sum was withdrawn from casino ATMs in southern Louisiana. The remaining $190,000 was spent at an online casino.

Joshua Barras’ medical bills are fully covered by Medicaid, but Maegan Barras has regularly asked for donations to cover experimental treatments not covered by insurance. It appears that none of the money in either bank account was earmarked for medical treatment.

“She didn’t spend that money the right way,” Hoggatt said. “She cheated people locally and around the world. She could face Medicaid fraud, Social Security fraud, trouble with the IRS for not reporting income.”

Although the ongoing trial is a civil matter, Hoggatt said it was possible Maegan Barras could eventually face criminal charges for fraud, particularly because she collected unemployment benefits and security payments. social in the name of Joshua Barras. Maegan Barras also opened a PayPal account in her husband’s name after his injury and regularly transferred funds from this account to his checking accounts.

“Guardianship itself will be determined at the June 16 trial,” Hoggatt said. “I’m confident we’ll prevail. Josh Barras’ mother, someone who loves him, will be in charge of his care.”

Shawanda H. Saldana