A Pennsylvania woman has been charged with profiting more than $10,000 in a fundraising scam after falsely claiming she had cancer and needed money for medical bills.
Uwchlan Township Police detectives detailed in their police report, a months-long investigation of increasingly intensifying lies resulting in the arrest of 31-year-old Jessica Ann Smith. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Smith was arraigned Monday on charges of theft by deception and receiving stolen property.
“This defendant preyed on people’s generosity and willingness to help others in need by lying about a cancer diagnosis,” Chester County’s first assistant district attorney Michael Noone said. “We all know someone who’s been touched by cancer, which makes this an even more disturbing case.”
According to reports, the investigation began in June after an acquaintance of Smith’s contacted the department and shared Smith was operating two fundraisers on GoFundMe and Facebook, where she asked for donations to help with medical bills after being diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
The woman believed Smith was lying about her diagnosis.
A month later, Smith’s own husband Robert Smith filed his own report with Uwchlan police. According to the criminal complaint, he also told police her cancer did not exist, stating her GoFundMe read she was facing “tremendous medical bills, travel costs, paying for the care of her children and missed work.” He said he had no medical or insurance records showing his wife was being treated for cancer.
At one point, he overheard her pretending to be a nurse at Penn Medicine, who called her job to insist she needed time off to recover from her cancer treatments, according to the police report. When police called Smith’s office in their investigation, a vice president in the human resources department told officers that she had been “very ill from a medical condition and […] was on paid time off.”
Detectives then contacted Penn Medicine with a search warrant soliciting her medical records. Reports say before they even received her medical records, Smith filed her own claim stating she was being harassed online. She informed police people were leaving comments on her Facebook and GoFundMe postings alleging she was faking her cancer diagnosis.
Smith eventually gave police the names of two Penn doctors she claimed were treating her cancer. A doctor’s assistant told police that Smith had never been the patient of the doctor. The other confirmed he had treated Smith, but for anemia and not cancer.
Police records show that the search warrant did indeed find that Smith was never treated for cancer at Penn.
According to the publication, Smith was arrested Monday and released on bail of $10,000. A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for later this month.