111.9k readers

People Who Actually Faked Cancer (And Got Caught)

Updated July 31, 2019 111.9k views11 items

Just as some people fake pregnancies or even their own deaths, there are a surprising number of people who faked having cancer. These true stories about fake cancer patients include a man who faked breast cancer to get out of meeting with his parole officer, a former porn star who said that she cured her nonexistent cancer with high-alkaline mineral water, and a woman who shaved her seven-year-old son's hair and sent him to school in a fake wheelchair. 

Because a cancer diagnosis can be so devastating, people caught faking an illness typically don't receive much sympathy. Upon hearing these fake cancer stories, you might be disgusted or even outraged, especially since many of them got caught after bilking friends, family, and charitable strangers out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. While the motives are often financial, it can get complicated... and even downright bizarre. 

Read on to discover some real stories of people who faked cancer, and a handful of plausible reasons behind this regrettable behavior. 

  • This Mom Received Over $10,000 In Donations To Treat Her Nonexistent Cancer

    Photo: Youtube

    In May 2014, Jenifer Gaskin, a nursing assistant living in Eugene, Oregon, told her friends that she had been diagnosed with medullary thyroid cancer and that the disease was terminal. Her friend, Jill Hanns, started a GoFundMe page to help with medical expenses, and that paged earned over $10,000. Instead of using it to fund cancer treatment or take time off from work, Gaskins used the money to buy her daughter a used car and to cover the cost of her son's braces. 

    Hanns became suspicious that her friend might be faking her illness and contacted the police. A detective verified that Gaskin did not receive treatment at any of the hospitals she claimed to have stayed in. Despite evidence that she feigned her illness, she is unlikely to be prosecuted because of how expensive it would to be to bring the 120+ donators to the trial.

  • Former Beauty Queen Faked Cancer And Went To Prison Because Of It

    Former Pennsylvania beauty queen Brandi Weaver-Gates was sentenced to prison for an upwards of four years in June 2016.

    The 24-year-old claimed to have leukemia and organized a "Bingo for Brandi" event, along with several other fundraising events. She ended up taking $30,000 from 165 people. Investigators started looking into the possibility of fraud after receiving an anonymous letter which said that Weaver-Gates could not remember the names of any of her doctors.

    Weaver-Gates claims to be repentant and hopes that people can find it in their hearts to forgive her. She reportedly told a judge that she didn't fake leukemia for money; she did it so that her family would pay more attention to her. 

  • This Husband Faked Cancer On Behalf Of His Unsuspecting Wife

    In 2009, Scott Wellington told his co-workers at C&M Machine Co. of Hudson, that his wife had found a lump in her breast. Over the course of two years, the story escalated to include breast cancer, a double mastectomy, and finally, death. Deeply sympathetic due to the CEO's own struggles with cancer, the company gave Wellington over $7,000 in donations and substantial time off. 

    Some of Wellington's co-workers became suspicious when they weren't invited to the funeral, but they wrote it off as a desire to process his grief in private. The lie was discovered when co-workers sent him a sympathy card containing a money order worth $500.

    His wife, who was alive and completely healthy, saw the card and immediately contacted her husband's job. She had no idea that her husband had been lying to his co-workers, and she was extremely apologetic. Dan Villemaire, the company's president, called the police, which resulted in Wellington's arrest. 

  • Office Manager Faked Cancer To Distract From An Embezzlement Scheme

    Photo: Pixabay

    Veterinary office manager Kelly Lisa Duncan needed a distraction from her embezzlement scam. She had been doctoring the payroll at the office from 2004 to 2011, and ultimately stole at least $647,800. In 2008, she told her boss, Robert Buzzetti, that she had pancreatic cancer.

    Buzzetti and his wife were deeply sympathetic to her supposed plight and prayed every day for her recovery. Duncan used this sympathy in her favor, feigning symptoms whenever Buzzetti asked to see the payroll. She also took off work for chemotherapy treatments that never took place. 

    Duncan's lies were revealed when Buzzetti caught her making alterations to the payroll. She ended up being charged with a single count of mail fraud – a charge that hardly matches her actions. In October 2011, she was sentenced to 41 months in jail and was required to pay back the $647,800. She sent the Buzzetti family a letter apologizing for her actions, but Robert Buzzetti does not believe her to be sincere.