A Georgia woman allegedly pretended to have Stage IV cancer to scam financial donations from friends, family and sympathetic supporters. Police suspect that this ruse had been going on since 2010.
Mary Bennett, a 29-year-old practical nurse residing in Forsyth County, Georgia, is accused of pretending to have Stage IV ovarian cancer. She would write frequently about her fictional struggle on social media, asking for contributions so that she could live out her “bucket list," Inside Edition notes.
Bennett would use these donations, which are estimated to have totaled to at least $25,000, to travel. With her ill-gotten gains, she went skydiving, took a hot air balloon ride, and visited Houston and New Orleans and even Los Angeles to meet comedian Jeff Dunham, according to WSB-TV. That’s just for starters.
“There were trips to Panama City, trips to Mississippi,” Forsyth Det. Jeffrey Roe told WSB-TV. “There were hotel stays. There were sporting events.”
Bennett reportedly went to great lengths to keep up her charade, shaving her head and even having family members drive her to regular hospital visits.
“Her family was completely in the dark,” Deputy Epifanio Rodriguez told Inside Edition. “She would go to these doctors and her family would take her, but no one ever actually went in with her. She was not actually have procedures.”
The scam artist would regularly thank her fundraising base on social media, encouraging them to keep on giving.
“I just wanted to tell you all, thank you!” she wrote on Facebook. “I am so very appreciate of the donation and the orders that people have placed … it’s certainly hard going thru cancer at any age … I can promise that once I’m better I will pay forward your kind acts through my career as a nurse and through donations.”
Bennett’s scheme completely unraveled after she provided investigators with letters from the Emory Winship Cancer Institute, which she claimed was where she had been receiving treatment.
“We found out it was a fraudulent signature,” Rodriguez said. The hospital told police that “we have no idea who Mary Bennett is.”
Bennett has been arrested for a felony first-degree forgery and a misdemeanor theft. The second charge could evolve into a felony if more victims come forward.
The people she duped have been devastated by the news.
“They openly wept in my office,” Roe told Inside Edition. “They cried with me over the phone, just couldn’t believe that someone would do this.”
Home builder Kirk McConnell, who held a fundraiser dinner for Bennett, is the only victim to press charges so far.
“I can’t believe somebody would lie about something like cancer when there are thousands of people suffering from it," McConnell told WSB-TV. " … Mary needs to be held accountable for her actions and that’s why I’m going to do what I’m going to do."
Bennett was released from jail after posting a bond on Jan. 11, Inside Edition notes.