Territory woman fakes cancer in charity scam
A WOMAN who faked a cancer diagnosis to swindle the Nhulunbuy community out of $10,000 has pleaded guilty in the Supreme Court to fraud, forgery and attempting to pervert the course of justice.
The court heard Cheryl Elizabeth Pryor, 40, had been living in the town before travelling in January last year to Sydney, where she claimed she had been admitted to hospital after being stabbed in the leg.
Pryor told her friend Lauren Rogers she had been diagnosed with leukaemia and throat cancer during her hospital stay and Ms Rogers offered to set up a GoFundMe account that she then posted to the Nhulunbuy Notice Board Facebook page.
Crown prosecutor Naomi Loudon said community members donated a total of $14,387.31 to the fundraiser before police started investigating in March due to suspicions raised by locals.
Pryor subsequently told police she was receiving chemotherapy under the care of Westmead Private Hospital professor Jonathan Carter but investigations revealed the hospital had no records of her as a patient.
When informed of this, Pryor assured police Prof Carter's office would be in touch before ringing the same officer back and posing as the doctor's personal assistant "Debbie Smith" in a call that would later be traced back to Pryor's phone in Darwin.
When interviewed by police, Ms Loudon said Pryor maintained she had attended an emergency department after being stabbed with a fork but couldn't remember which one.
"She claimed to have experienced a sore throat which caused her to believe she may have cancer but accepted she was never diagnosed with any disease," Ms Loudon said.
"She admitted accepting payments from the charity fund but claimed she could not recall what she had represented about any reason for entitlement to such funds."
In a victim impact statement, Ms Rogers said she was left "in total shock and disbelief that one human being could do this to another" and worried the community would now be "suspicious of people with genuine sickness and (would) not want to put up their hand to help and be there for people in need".
"I lay in bed at night going over conversations and analysing them," she said.
"Wondering how someone could do this to not only me but be deceitful to the entire community of Nhulunbuy.
"I continually ask myself how she could take advantage of my giving nature in such a sick and twisted way. I was so sad and felt sick to the core for weeks."
Pryor will return to court for sentencing on May 29.
Originally published as Territory woman fakes cancer in charity scam