A woman accused of faking a cancer diagnosis is facing jail time after allegedly pocketing $10,000 from compassionate well-wishers.
Jessica Smith, 32, of Chester County, Pennsylvania, claimed to have been diagnosed with a rare form of colon cancer, establishing donation pages via GoFundMe and Facebook where she said she needed help with medical bills.
Writing on these pages, Smith alleged she was struggling with ‘tremendous medical bills, travel costs, and paying for the care of her children and missed work’. Many people sympathised with her plight, and the donations began pouring in.
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However, the story took a dark turn in June when a friend of Smith’s filed a police report alleging Smith was only pretending to have cancer, leading Uwchlan Township Police Department to launch an investigation.
A month later, Smith’s own husband made the very same allegations. The husband informed police his wife did not have cancer and was covered under his employer’s health insurance policy.
According to the complaint, as obtained by CNN, Smith’s husband was able to provide documentation proving Smith’s medical expenses had not even reached the $1,250 deductible.
The husband also alleged he had heard his wife impersonating a nurse while on the phone to her employer, informing them she would need time off while recovering from her cancer treatment.
This allegedly wasn’t the only time Smith had made false claims to get time off work. Smith had recently told her employer she needed time off due to the death of her father. Police later learned her dad was alive and living in the same township.
Smith was arrested Monday and now faces charges of theft by deception, false impression and receiving stolen property after authorities found donations had been transferred to a TD Bank account rather than her claimed $15,000 deductible.
Chester County’s First Assistant Attorney Michael Noone told CBS Philly:
This is a disturbing situation where she preyed upon the good nature of other people,
[…] She took advantage of other people’s generosity by lying about having cancer. She also lied about her own father’s death to get another day off from work.
A GoFundMe spokesperson made the following statement to People, stressing the rarity of the situation:
It important to remember that misuse is extremely rare on our platform.
Campaigns with any misuse make up less than one-tenth of one percent of all campaigns. With that said, there are unfortunate and rare instances where people create campaigns with the intention to take advantage of others’ generosity.
The spokesperson emphasised ‘all donations will be refunded to the donors in full’, with the GoFundMe team reportedly now assisting local law enforcement with its investigation.
Smith will reportedly return to court next week to attend her preliminary hearing.
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Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.