CHESTER COUNTY, Penn. (WTHR) — A Pennsylvania woman is accused of pretending to have cancer and lying about her own father dying in an elaborate scheme to steal thousands of dollars from donors on Facebook and GoFundMe.
Jessica Cornell Smith was arrested Monday and charged with theft by deception/false impression and receiving stolen property.
Earlier this year, Smith created a GoFundMe campaign and a Facebook page claiming she was diagnosed with hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer. She said she was getting treatment from specialists at the "Abraham Cancer Center" at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.
The true name of the cancer facility at the hospital is the Abramson Cancer Center.
Through the pages she created, Smith said she was facing tremendous medical bills, travel costs and other payments related to child care in addition to missing work. She also said her insurance coverage only held a $15,000 deductible.
Through the donation pages, she raised more than $10,000.
Police began to investigate in June when a friend filed a report, claiming they didn't believe she had cancer. Smith's husband accused his wife of committing fraud, saying he did not have any insurance records, statements or documents that indicated his wife was being treated for any form of cancer.
Smith also told her bosses that her father had died, allowing her to take off work. In reality, her father was alive and Smith had provided a death certificate that didn't match her father's name.
Police determined Smith lied about her cancer diagnosis.
A GoFundMe spokesperson said the company is working with police to return the money to donors. It's unclear if the money gifted through Facebook can be returned.
Smith is also facing other charges including identity theft, posing as a police officer and lying, NBC Philadelphia reports.