A woman from northern California was sentenced to five years in prison this week after pleading guilty to one count of wire fraud for faking her cancer diagnosis and then soliciting people online for donations to pay for her (non-existent) treatment.
Amanda Christine Riley, a 36-year-old woman from San Jose, pleaded guilty to the count in federal court back in October of 2021, two years after the federal government first brought a case against her on the matter. The legal battle wrapped up on Tuesday afternoon when Riley was sentenced on the wire fraud charge, accepting a five-year prison term following her plea.
According to prosecutors, Riley’s fake cancer scheme began back in 2012 when she was living in San Jose. The former school principal apparently began posting to social media at the time, creating a blog about her supposed cancer diagnosis and using Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to spread awareness of her (fake) condition.
Claiming she was battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the now-36-year-old reportedly raised exactly $105,513 from concerned supporters via online fundraisers. Prior to her plea, federal prosecutors had argued that the outreach was completely fake, and Riley bilked unsuspecting donors out of money for a “non-existent medical condition.” Her guilty plea late last year and sentencing this week have now brought the case to its conclusion.
Using her blog, which was titled Lymphoma Can Suck It, Riley shared a link to a support page called “Amanda’s Battle With Cancer,” where donors could give her money towards what they thought were medical expenses. In total, investigators determined she’d received donations from 349 different people and entities during her phony outreach. Prosecutors argued that she used all that money on living expenses, and had never been sick.
In a statement released to the media on Tuesday night, the U.S. Attorney’s Office shared their reaction to the guilty plea:
“She used her presence on these sites to ‘document’ her non-existent medical condition, and to aggressively solicit donations, supposedly to cover her medical expenses. In truth, Riley had no medical expenses. The donations she received were deposited into her personal bank accounts and used to pay her living expenses.”
Riley’s online scam was apparently pretty thorough. During their investigation, prosecutors found that she’d posted photos of hospital stays, drug therapies and medicines, and wrote in detail about side effects from chemotherapy and more. The attorneys even said that she’d shaved her head at one point to make it look like she lost her hair due to the cancer treatment.
Her scheme first unraveled in 2019 following a joint investigation by the Internal Revenue Service and the San Jose Police Department into her finances. The woman got into trouble after prosecutors determined she’d apparently “falsified medical records, forged physicians’ letters and medical certifications and attacked anyone who suggested she was lying,” according to reporting by People.
Now, following her plea, Riley will spend the next five years in prison. She’s also required to pay back the money she took from donors, according to media reports. What a wild and despicable scheme…
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