The father of a Canadian woman who allegedly swindled people out of thousands of dollars by pretending she was dying of cancer said it made him "sick to [his] stomach" when he learned of her fraud.
Mike Kirilow told Bill Weir in an exclusive interview on "Good Morning America" today that his 23-year-old daughter Ashley Kirilow admitted her hoax to him in a telephone conversation in April after she posted a message on her Facebook page saying it would be her last because she was dying.
"We had a conversation that lasted approximately 20 minutes, and in subsequent days we had several more conversations. And then I asked her -- well, I didn't ask her -- I actually said, 'You don't have cancer, do you,'" Kirilow said.
"There was silence on the phone, then she said, 'No,'" he said. "I asked her about her losing her hair, her eyebrows and her eyelashes. She told me that she shaved her head, shaved her eyebrows and plucked her eyelashes, to look like she was suffering from the reactions from chemotherapy."
Ashley Kirilow, who was living in Toronto, turned herself in to police on Friday, and on Saturday was arraigned on three charges of theft with a value of under $5,000. She has not entered a plea and is scheduled for a court hearing on Monday.
The young woman admitted the hoax in an interview with the Toronto Star and said she did it because she "was trying to be noticed."
"I didn't want to feel like I'm nothing anymore. It went wrong, it spread like crazy," she told the newspaper.
Kirilow began telling friends and family she was stricken with terminal cancer after undergoing successful surgery for a benign tumor in January 2009. She even shaved her hair and eyebrows, allegedly to give the appearance that she was undergoing chemotherapy.
"She always wore a bandana on her head," said Jan Care, a volunteer and the mother of one of the young woman's friends. "She just felt very drawn, pale, starved."
"I remember taking her to hang out with my family, and my cousin offered her a smoke. And she goes, 'No, I'm dying from cancer you idiot,'" said Matt Vardy, a friend of Kirilow.
Last fall she started a Facebook page called "Change for a Cure" to raise money supposedly for cancer research at the University of Alberta.
She also solicited funds from friends and donors, reportedly collecting thousands of dollars. A Canadian cancer charity even sent her to Disneyworld.
"When I found out that she was taking people's money and it wasn't going to the University of Alberta as she had specified, it made me sick to my stomach," Mike Kirilow said.
"I have no idea where the money is now," he said. "I do suspect that she spent it all. And judging from the stories that are coming out, that seems to have been what she's done."
In an interview with the Star, she said she did it to get back at her family for what she said was an unhappy childhood.
"I took it as an opportunity to make my family feel bad for how I was treated," she said.
She told the newspaper she has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, and showed bottles of an antidepressant and an antipsychotic often used to treat bipolar disorder that were prescribed for her, the Star reported.
She said she didn't originally intend to keep the money she raised until she was forced to declare bankruptcy in January with more than $30,000 in debts, according to the Star.