A woman in Mechanicsville, Va., was arrested Wednesday for allegedly raising money by falsely claiming she had cancer.
Martha Nicholas, 42, who claimed she was a four-time cancer patient and participated in multiple community cancer fundraisers, including one for the American Cancer Society, allegedly made up her story, ABC television station WRIC in Virginia reported.
The Hanover County Sheriff’s department said an investigation revealed “no evidence of any cancer treatment at any medical facility that had been publicly identified by Martha Nicholas during her many public appearances and testimonials.”
The department said it found evidence that individuals had given money to Nicholas because of her supposed condition.
Nicholas did not immediately return a request for comment.
Nicholas’ attorney, Sam Simpson, told ABC News, “This was not a scam to rip people off. There is an illness. It’s a mental illness, and I can’t say more about this.”
During one fundraising event, Nicholas said she was diagnosed with stage-four ovarian cancer when she was 22, WRIC reported.
The money Nicholas allegedly obtained under false pretense might have been less than $200, and she was released on recognizance after being arrested, according to a court filing. Hanover Commonwealth’s Attorney Trip Chalkeley and the sheriff’s department charged Nicholas with two counts of misdemeanor for obtaining money by false pretenses. The sheriff’s office said Nicholas will be arraigned in Hanover General District Court Dec. 16.
The sheriff’s office received an anonymous complaint in April about Nicholas’ alleged false claims, and she received financial support for medical expenses and “other financial hardships related to her illness,” according to a statement from the office. Investigators began evaluating her public announcements after “unsuccessful attempts” to speak with her.
Nicholas is not the first to be accused of faking a cancer claim. Ashley Kirilow, a Canadian woman, admitted to the Toronto Star last year that she had faked that she was dying and asked for donations through a charity. Then 23, Kirilow had shaved her head and eyebrows for the hoax to get attention and get back at her family for an unhappy childhood, she said.