Melissa Jones of Canandaigua, New York pleaded guilty to two counts of grand larceny and two counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument. In plain, homegrown English, that means she admits to stealing money and forging letters in order to collect somewhere between $20,000 and $30,000. She stole this money from folks like you and me who were told that Jones had breast cancer. She set up a "Hope For Melissa" fundraiser and held around 17 events. Money came pouring in. But Ms. Jones wasn't too smart, and she was caught as yet another breast cancer fraud.
In order to take time off of her job for "cancer treatment" she had to produce letters from an oncologist and a cancer center. So she did just that, but she wrote them herself. If she had taken more time, she might have at least looked up the name of a local doctor, but she just made up a name. She forged another letter, this one from the cancer clinic, and asked for sick leave time, which she got. Jones also got other benefits paid to herself by filing her own medical claims for more than $3000. Guess where she works? Thompson Health, a health care services company that runs a hospital, urgent care clinics, and - wait for it! - a cancer center.
After sentencing, Jones may spend up to 5 years in jail. If her case had gone to trial, she would have faced between 9 to 20 years behind bars. As it is, someone wised up to her forged documents, she pled guilty, and most of money had been recovered. People who donated money to Jones hope to recover their donations. The District Attorney for Ontario County has a list of the fraud victims and will find a way to reimburse them for their funds. Meanwhile, people around Canandaigua are understandably mad. Local businesses as well as concerned citizens had given to Jones' fundraisers, and some feel insulted. Even worse, that money could have been given to genuine cancer patients who were in need at the time that donations were being enjoyed by Ms. Jones.
Please don't be taken in by a breast cancer fraud. These people take advantage of all the attention and publicity and emotional string-pulling that can be associated with breast cancer as The Great Pink Cause, and they exploit that for all it's worth! Be smart, avoid the frauds, and donate wisely.
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