A British woman stands accused of lying about having cancer on the GoFundMe donation platform to scam donors out of money.
Nicole Elkabbas, 40, has been charged with multiple counts of fraud, according to Kent Online, in connection with a GoFundMe campaign that allegedly netted her over $57,000 (£45,000).
Elkabbas, who is from Broadstairs, Kent, claimed she needed the money for treatment for ovarian cancer.
She appeared at Canterbury Crown Court on June 11, where she denied the allegations.
Police charged Elkabbas on April 5, with a spokesman cited by MailOnline saying: “Nicole Elkabbas is charged with six counts of fraud following an investigation by detectives from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate.
“She is alleged to have falsely claimed to have required treatment for cancer in order to receive donations from members of the public, between February and August 2018.”
On a GoFundMe campaign page, she shared a picture of herself lying in bed, propped up with pillows and covered in blankets. The photo shows a white band prominently on her wrist, similar to those worn by hospital patients.
Elkabbas denied the charges at an appearance at Canterbury Crown Court on Tuesday, Kent Online reported.
Judge Mark Weekes granted the woman unconditional bail.
Her trial is scheduled for Jan. 27, 2020.
Indictment in ‘Good Samaritan’ GoFundMe Scam
In related news, a New Jersey man has been indicted on multiple charges after being accused of conspiring to defraud donors in a fake GoFundMe campaign.
Prosecutors cited by Fox News said 39-year-old Mark D’Amico was indicted on Wednesday, May 9, on six charges related to a fraudulent “Good Samaritan” scheme that duped thousands into donating over $400,000.
Investigators have alleged D’Amico, along with his then-girlfriend Kate McClure and homeless veteran Johnny Bobbit, devised a get-rich-quick scheme that used a fabricated feel-good story to spark mass donations.
Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina announced D’Amico’s indictment, according to Fox.
D’Amico is the last of the three to face charges connected with the scam.
Bogus ‘Feel-Good’ Story
Over 14,000 people donated to the GoFundMe campaign in 2017 in the wake of a viral story about homeless veteran Johnny Bobbitt using his last $20 to help out a woman who had gotten stranded on a Philadelphia highway in the wrong part of town.
That woman, Kate McClure, who took the story viral, was real—but the story was a sham. It claimed that Bobbitt, a former Marine and first responder, spent the last of his money to help McClure buy gas after her car broke down on the I-95 exit ramp near Philadelphia.
McClure posted the heartwarming rescue story on social media, directing people to a campaign page set up to collect funds ostensibly to help Bobbitt get a leg-up in life.
“Let’s do something special,” McClure wrote, as news of the homeless man’s alleged selfless act quickly went viral.
The funding response was overwhelming. The goal was $10,000, but within nine months the amount collected reached $402,706—an extraordinary result that received broad media coverage.
McClure said on the GoFundMe page that the money would be used to buy Bobbitt a house and truck, and the rest would be placed in two trusts—one that would let him “collect a small ‘salary’ each year” and another for his retirement.
In fact, McClure met Bobbitt a month before the made-up story went viral, a court heard on March 6, when Bobbitt pleaded guilty to multiple charges in connection with the case, according to CBS.
The story unraveled when Bobbitt announced he was suing the couple, claiming they had misused funds that were intended for him.
McClure and then-boyfriend D’Amico spent the cash on lavish gifts, including a BMW, designer goods, and trips to Las Vegas.
The ensuing investigation sparked by Bobbitt’s displeasure at receiving only around $25,000 unmasked the campaign as a fraud.
D’Amico and McClure spent most of the rest of the money in just a few months, according to the prosecutor’s office.
“I can’t believe we have less than $10K left,” McClure said to D’Amico in a March 2018 text, according to a probable cause statement cited by the Courier-Post.
“In a year you’ll be laughing about when you blew hundreds of thousands,” she wrote.
GoFundMe has refunded all donations made to the fake campaign.
Bobbitt Sentenced, McClure Pleads Guilty
Bobbitt, for his role in the scam, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering.
He has been sentenced to five years’ probation.
The judge handed down Bobbitt’s sentence as part of an earlier plea agreement reached with prosecutors.
He must meet conditions including inpatient drug treatment and cooperation with prosecutors against his co-defendants. If he violates those conditions, he will be sentenced to five years in prison with no possibility of parole for at least 18 months.
McClure pleaded guilty on April 15 at a New Jersey court to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
She could face up to 33 months in jail. Her sentencing is expected in June.
She has been released on a $100,000 bond, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer, and ordered not to have contact with the co-defendants.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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Author: Tom Ozimek