BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP/WSVN) — A judge has sentenced an Alabama woman to more than two years in federal prison for using a cancer scam to solicit more than $260,000 in donations from people wanting to help her.
U.S. District Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins also ordered 37-year-old Jennifer Flynn Cataldo of Sterrett, Alabama, to pay about $80,000 in restitution to her victims during a hearing Wednesday.
Authorities say Cataldo began falsely claiming she had cancer in 2014. From then until early this year, they say, she fraudulently took in money from friends, family and donors who gave her money through two GoFundMe pages and her Facebook account.
One of the online fundraisers was titled “Mom has Terminal Cancer Disney Trip,” with the stated goal of raising $4,000 to take her young child to visit Disney before she died, prosecutors said.
U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town called Cataldo’s crime “reprehensible,” saying in a statement:
“For more than two years she engaged in an elaborate scheme that preyed upon the sympathy and generosity of her friends and family. Not only did she fake cancer to take their money, she used her minor child as part of her ruse and allowed the child to believe his mother was dying. She has earned every nickel of her punishment.”
A plea agreement says Cataldo collected about $264,000 in all. She used some of the money to buy as many as 40 non-prescribed opioid painkillers a day.
Cataldo pleaded guilty to fraud charges in August.
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