"She was very vague about her diagnosis and treatment," Jessica Smith's friend from high school, Terri Coleman, said
A Pennsylvania woman is behind bars after allegedly faking a cancer diagnosis and subsequently raising more than $10,000 in crowdfunding-sourced donations for her supposed treatment, PEOPLE confirms.
A press release from the Uwchlan Township Police Department states that Jessica Smith allegedly lied about having cancer and collected money via GoFundMe and Facebook under the guise of helping with medical bills.
“This is a disturbing situation where she preyed upon the good nature of other people,” Michael Noone, first assistant attorney for Chester County, told Philadelphia’s CBS 3. “She took advantage of other people’s generosity by lying about having cancer.”
“She also lied about her own father’s death to get another day off from work,” Noone added.
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CNN reported that a criminal complaint filed by Chester County’s Commonwealth of Pennsylvania said that Smith, 32, had claimed a diagnosis of hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) and was undergoing chemotherapy treatment at Penn Medicine.
The complaint also read, according to CNN, that Smith was “facing tremendous medical bills, travel costs, and paying for the care of her children and missed work,” and that the over $10,000 she raised was deposited into joint bank accounts she shares with her husband.
According to the police press release, Smith was charged with receiving stolen property and theft by deception-false impression, and turned herself in on Monday.
“She was very vague about her diagnosis and treatment and [posted] really suggestive photos, like a selfie on the bathroom floor [with the caption], ‘About to give up on life but also please donate to my GoFundMe,'” Smith’s friend from high school, Terri Coleman, told NBC 10.
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In a statement to PEOPLE, GoFundMe spokesperson Meghan Scripture said, “the campaign was reported to our team and we are working with local law enforcement to assist in the investigation” and “all donations will be refunded to the donors in full.”
“It important to remember that misuse is extremely rare on our platform,” she continued. “Campaigns with any misuse make up less than one-tenth of one percent of all campaigns. With that said, there are unfortunate and rare instances where people create campaigns with the intention to take advantage of others’ generosity.”
Speaking with CBS 3, The Ever-Evolving Truth podcast host Jeff Bergh — who interviewed Smith twice concerning the claims before her arrests — said, “We just started looking into some of the things that she was saying and it turned out that every bit of it, every word she uttered to us was a lie.”
Smith’s initial bail was set at $10,000 police said, and her preliminary court hearing date is Nov. 12. It was not immediately clear if she has retained an attorney to comment on her behalf.
Police ask anyone with information to contact the Uwchlan Township Police Department through the Chester County Department of Emergency Services by calling 610-692-5100.