An Illinois mother is behind bars today after police discovered she allegedly lied about having cancer and used that lie to raise over $35,000 in support. According to Belleville, Illinois Police, even the woman’s children believed their mom would soon die from stage IV ovarian cancer. It is not yet known how much information her husband knew about the apparent hoax.
The woman is identified as 31-year-old nurse Alissa Jackson. Two years ago, Jackson announced to friends and family that she’d been diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer. She set up a Facebook page and a crowd funding page, and supporters from her community and around the world donated $35,000 to help her and her family.
Then, about two months ago, someone close to Jackson grew suspicious. She saw Jackson enthusiastically chasing a dog around a yard. Keep in mind she was supposedly suffering through massive chemo therapy doses at the time.
“She's chasing after her dog,” witness Dana McQuade said. "[I thought] Wait a minute, this isn't right. She's doing something that someone with stage four ovarian cancer wouldn't be doing.”
Jen Huelsmann, a friend of Jackson’s who helped organize fundraisers on her behalf, said she knew something was up when Jackson posted on Facebook that she was in the ER yet no hospital in the area had any record of her being checked in.
"That was the turning point," Huelsmann said. "We were at the hospital she said she was at and they physically went back to the emergency room to try to find her and she was not there."
McQuade says that when she confronted Jackson and asked her to produce some kind of proof of a diagnosis, she had nothing.
“It would have been the easiest thing in the world for her to produce a medical record with a doctor's diagnosis that she has stage four ovarian cancer - but she couldn't,” McQuade said.
McQuade says Jackson then confessed to her on the phone that her entire cancer story was a sham. She was arrested soon after on two counts of felony theft and is currently being held in jail on $100,000 bond.
Police say Jackson’s lie has damaged not only those in the Belleville community who worked so hard to raise money for her, but also those around the world who donated to her cause online.
“To the hundreds of people who donated to [Jackson]: Do not let Jackson’s evil prevent you from helping people in the future,” a statement from the department said.
Here’s how the manager of a local bar that donated over $1,400 to Jackson summed up her feelings on the situation.
“The deepest form of being a lowlife in my eyes to fake a disease like cancer that so many people fight and lose - it's just, it's inconceivable that someone could do it.”