Alabama woman pleads guilty in fake cancer fundraising scheme

Jennifer Flynn Cataldo (Shelby County Jail)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama woman pleaded guilty to fraud charges for portraying herself as a terminal cancer patient in a pair of online fundraising schemes.

A statement from acting U.S. Attorney Robert Posey says 37-year-old Jennifer Flynn Cataldo on Tuesday entered her guilty pleas to one count of wire fraud and one count of bank fraud in federal court. The release says Cataldo agreed to repay nearly $80,000 to people verified to have given her money.

A false GoFundMe account set up for Jennifer Flynn Cataldo who claimed to need money for cancer treatment. (Alabama Attorney General)

Alabama Attorney General Steven T. Marshall says Cataldo used two online GoFundMe fundraising campaigns to ask for money for cancer treatment and a family trip to Disney World. In addition, investigators say she asked for money from friends and family in person, online and through text messages adding up to more than $260,000.

An investigation found her claim of a terminal illness wasn’t true.

“This type of deception potentially impacts fund-raising efforts of websites and organizations that exist to raise money for families with true medical needs,” Posey says. “I applaud the cooperative efforts of the FBI and the Alabama Attorney General’s Office in investigating this crime and bringing it forward for prosecution.”

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