Wednesday, March 24, 2021

"A Bestselling Author Became Obsessed With Freeing a Man From Prison. It Nearly Ruined Her Life."

A lengthy article published by the Marshall Project in partnership with New York Magazine about an author that became convinced of an imprisoned California man's innocence and was spending $20k per month funding the efforts to overturn the conviction. Lots of assertions about her becoming convinced she was being pursued, and descriptions of her dabbling in scalping to raise money:

Sara escalated her efforts in spring and summer 2016. She set up fake Facebook accounts in an attempt to find Dinardo and members of his family. Sara told me that Bolaños, via her findings, discovered that Dinardo’s family members were running a day care center out of a garage in Long Beach. And that he sent her live updates and photographs from a sting that he’d set up, sending two agents to pose as a couple looking for day care. It went nowhere.


The answer came in a Christmas request from her grandchildren: “Hatchimals,” a popular interactive toy that arrived in an egg and “hatched” when rubbed. Five minutes of research convinced her that they were Generation Alpha’s answer to Cabbage Patch Kids. The retail price was $59.99, but high demand and low supply caused substantial markups online. In a four-day bidding frenzy, she bought 156 Hatchimal listings on eBay with an average price of $151, spending $23,595.31 in total. “Either I have big balls or no brains,” she emailed at the time, “or perhaps the two go together.”

After listing just three Hatchimals, pricing them from $189 to $219, she encountered a crippling setback: eBay had limited the quantity of Hatchimals listings to three per week. At this rate, she might sell another nine before Christmas, after which demand — and prices — would surely drop. She set up a Shopify account and linked to it in a long Facebook post detailing Murdoch’s case. Although she gave away several Hatchimals, criticism soon followed: “It’s sad that a lot of kids will be very upset this Christmas because of greedy people like you,” one irate commenter responded. News outlets from across the country and the world picked up the story: Time magazine, The Washington Post, The Guardian, NBC’s the Today show (with the teaser “Hatchimals are hoarded by best-selling author”).

(Here's the LATimes 2016 write-up on the Hatchimals episode.)