By his own admission, Vitaly Zdorovetskiy is "usually a d-bag."
But the 21-year-old Boca Raton prankster, who's made tens of thousands of dollars and amassed nearly as many YouTube followers as Justin Timberlake by pranking random passerby, didn't want to be a d-bag this time. He wanted to help. Do something good for once.
That's when he found Martin, a very charismatic and very toothless homeless guy. See, Martin had a problem. He couldn't afford new teeth. And that's where Zdorovetskiy was going to step in.
Zdorovetskiy treated him to a haircut and new set of digs, and the video of the day's activities that he posted to YouTube got props from all sides. It soared into Reddit's top ten list, and for several hours two weeks ago was YouTube's dominant video. "It was an awesome feeling," Zdorovetskiy says.
Afterward, Zdorovetskiy launched an Indiegogo site to raise money for Martin. "His Biggest Dream is to get his teeth pulled," Zdorovetskiy wrote. "Lets make this happen guys. I am personally going to go to the dentist with him."
Zdorovetskiy wanted to raise $2,500 for Martin, but within three days he'd already netted a whopping $10,000. Then last night, the night Zdorovetskiy was supposed to collect, Indiegogo sent him an e-mail saying it had unceremoniously shut down the campaign, and that everyone would be refunded their money.
The reason: Zdorovetskiy has quite the rap sheet -- though all of his felony charges have been dismissed. Last year, he was arrested in Boca Raton for a bomb hoax (he denies he ever said there was a bomb) and charged with two felonies. He then spent 60 days in jail. Also, Indiegogo alleges, Martin has a checkered past with the law.
It marks another example illustrating the precariousness of crowd source funding. Late last month, a man named Erik Chevalier walked away with $120,000 after he hoodwinked thousands of donors into thinking he was designing a board game that would whisk players into a "lighthearted world of urban destruction."
The ending wasn't so lighthearted, however. Chevalier originally asked for $35,000 -- but walked away with four times that.
Perhaps those anecdotes have made sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo a little nervous about campaigns that explode and bring in much more than it had originally sought -- sites like Zdorovetskiy's.
Regardless, the hardest part for Zdorovetskiy may still lay ahead: telling Martin about the failed campaign.
"Tomorrow I am going to see Martin," the prankster posted to Facebook last night. "The good news is that his wife took him back. And I had offers for a free teeth surgery."
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