A Colorado mother was arrested after it was discovered that she took in over $25,000 in donations from her community because she lied about her son being sick with cancer.
Sandy Thi Nguyen, 28, allegedly convinced her own son, the rest of her family, and the community at large that the 6-year-old boy had a rare form of terminal cancer.
"We don't have any reason to believe that anyone other than her knew the truth," said Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Captain Larry Etheridge. "The little boy believed he had cancer. The rest of the family believed he had cancer."
According to reports, the Department of Human Services received information alleging that the sick boy was not actually sick. The sheriff’s office launched the investigation on March 7 and discovered that the woman had made up the story in order to steal money from people. The investigation determined that Nguyen “did convince her son, family and community that her 6-year-old son had cancer and was receiving cancer treatment since approximately September 2012.”
Massive fundraising efforts took place in Nguyen’s community once she was able to convince her family that the young boy had cancer. The mother started a Facebook page to gain support from people, and the page featured pictures of the boy with a shaved head to look as if he had been going through chemotherapy. Donations came pouring in from fundraisers at the boy’s school, Rolling Hills Elementary, and the family eventually collected more than $25,000.
"Over the last several months, Ms. Nguyen accepted at least $16,000.00 from that account, as well as a trip to Disneyland for herself and family, which was paid for by the donated funds,” said the sheriff’s office, adding that after interviewing her, Nguyen "admitted that her son does not have cancer, and stated that some of the money [$23,000) recovered from the residence was from donations received.”
Nguyen said that her son was diagnosed with stage three Acute Myelogenous Leukemia and had received 317 days of chemo, seven days of radiation, and a number of other serious procedures in order to fight the cancer. An October 2013 5K walk was even held in honor of the boy, and according to the walk’s website, they were informed that the boy only had around eight months to live.
Rolling Hills Elementary Principal Darla Thompson sent a letter to parents after police informed her that Nguyen had scammed the community.
"We are deeply troubled by these allegations and saddened to learn that an adult may have taken advantage of an innocent child and our school community,” wrote Thompson. “But the allegations do not, in any way, diminish the concern and support demonstrated by the Rolling Hills community for a child believed to be facing a life-threatening challenge. It is important for our community to continue to show support and compassion for this child, who is also a victim in this case. The child was wrongfully led to believe that he was ill, and he was not responsible for the parent’s alleged actions.”
After being arrested on felony charges of theft and criminal impersonation to gain benefit, Nguyen posted $10,000 bond and was released for the time being.