Woman accused of using ‘Lights for Layla, Inc.’ donations for personal expenses appears in court
Randi Romanoff is accused of using funds donated in the name of eight-year-old Layla Aiken for her own personal gain.
Many in SWFL donated to Lights for Layla, Inc. and while some of the money was given to Aiken’s family. However, much of the money was used to pay off Romanoff’s bills and buy items such as an Xbox and go on vacations.
She was arrested Wednesday night and appeared in court early Thursday.
Jade Morton and another woman helped Romanoff create ‘Lights for Layla, Inc.’ in hopes that it would stop another deadly crash like that from happening.
In April 2019, Romanoff said this to WINK News during a school board meeting, “I want to know what they are doing right now because we’ve done benches, we’ve done fundraisers, we’ve raised money. ”
Cape Coral Police say Romanoff used that same donation money for vacations, bills, game systems and shopping trips.
So when Morton heard about this, she called the third founder, Lacey Williams and headed to the bank to see for herself.
“I rang Lacey up, I said don’t tell Randi, but I am going to the bank to find out for myself,” Morton said.
Lacey Williams joined Jade and they were shocked by what they found. “Completely devastated. I mean. we were both in tears….I’m gonna cry now,” Williams said. “This is all because a little girl died and this is not how it was supposed to be. It was supposed to be something good for her. ”
“I’m truly sorry that this is how it ended up,” she said. “My heart is broken too.”
As for improving bus stop safety for kids, that dream is currently on hold.
Many families hoped their donations would go towards benches and better lighting. Anything in an effort to make bus stops safer.
Layla Aiken’s cousin said the investigation into Romanoff is opening up old wounds for her and her family.
“I mean school went back, the bus stops are out there with the benches, I still cry when I see the benches.”
Many, including Founder Jade Morton, don’t want to get involved with charities any longer after what Romanoff did.
“The sad thing about it I’ll never do anything for charity ever again,” Morton said. “It’s too close to home and you just really can’t trust anyone.”
Mental Health Counselor Laura Streyffler says that feeling is common and Morton isn’t alone.
“The feeling of betrayal, they trusted that this organization was what they said they were. The money is going to where it was going to go, and they feel like they’ve been played,” Streyffler said.
But she advises you not to let Romanoff’s actions deter you from giving. Instead, do your homework on organizations before donating.
“People need to do their due diligence,” said Streyffler. “And before you give to a charity, you need to really find out what it is, where the money is going, and how it’s going to get there.”