Woman Who Faked Cancer for 7 Years, Swindling $100,000 Worth of Donations, Gets 5 Years in Prison

Amanda Christine Riley, 36, received 349 donations from individuals and entities through her fake cancer fundraising scheme

Amanda Riley and husband in court
Amanda Riley and husband in court. Photo: Vicki Behringer

A California woman was sentenced Tuesday to five years in prison for faking a cancer diagnosis and soliciting donations to help pay for her treatment.

Amanda Christine Riley, 36, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in October.

Federal authorities said Riley raised $105,513 in the fraud scheme after alleging on social media and her blog that she was battling Hodgkin's lymphoma. She received 349 donations from individuals and entities through her fake cancer fundraising scheme.

Prosecutors said the scheme began in 2012 when the former principal, who was then living in San Jose, began posting on social media, including on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, as well as on a blog about her cancer diagnosis.

"She used her presence on these sites to 'document' her nonexistent medical condition, and to aggressively solicit donations, supposedly to cover her medical expenses," the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement. "In truth, Riley had no medical expenses. The donations she received were deposited into her personal bank accounts and used to pay her living expenses."

On the sites, she wrote about her so-called cancer journey and the treatments she was receiving, even posting photos of her hospitals stays, the drugs she was taking, and the chemotherapy side effects she was experiencing.

Riley, prosecutors said, also shaved her head to make it look like she lost her hair due to cancer treatment.

Her blog, titled "Lymphoma Can Suck It," also contained a link to a support page titled "Amanda's Battle with Cancer," where you could donate money.

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In addition, prosecutors said Riley falsified medical records, forged physicians' letters and medical certifications and attacked anyone who suggested she was lying.

Prosecutors said her scheme finally unraveled in 2019 after an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service and the San Jose Police Department.

Riley is required to pay back the money she bilked from donors.

Her public defender could not be reached for comment.

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