Chester County woman accused of faking cancer in $10K fund-raising scam faces additional charges in Delaware
Jessica Ann Smith, 31, was arraigned Monday in Chester County on charges of receiving stolen property and theft by deception. She's now also facing charges of identity theft and criminal impersonation of a law enforcement officer in Delaware.
A Chester Springs woman who is charged with faking a cancer diagnosis in a $10,000 a fund-raising scam is also in trouble with police in Delaware.
Wilmington police on Wednesday confirmed that Jessica Ann Smith, 31, is facing charges of identity theft and criminal impersonation of a law enforcement officer.
Smith has not yet been arrested on those charges and details of the alleged incidents have not yet been made available.
In a criminal complaint in Chester County, Uwchlan Township police detectives laid out a months-long investigation of increasingly escalating lies that ended in the arrest of Smith, who was arraigned Monday on charges of receiving stolen property and theft by deception.
“This defendant preyed on people’s generosity and willingness to help others in need by lying about a cancer diagnosis,” said Michael Noone, Chester County first assistant district attorney. “We all know someone who’s been touched by cancer, which makes this an even more disturbing case.”
The investigation began in June, when an acquaintance of Smith’s contacted the department and said Smith was running two fund-raisers, on GoFundMe and Facebook, asking for donations to help with medical bills from a recent diagnosis of colorectal cancer. The woman told police she didn’t believe Smith had cancer.
A month later, Smith’s husband, Robert, filed his own report with Uwchlan police, according to the criminal complaint. He told police that his wife was raising money online for help with a cancer diagnosis that didn’t exist. The author of the GoFundMe page wrote that she was facing “tremendous medical bills, travel costs, paying for the care of her children and missed work,” according to the complaint.
On a Facebook page, under the name “Jessica Veronica Cornell,” Smith had written that she needed “extensive medical treatment” and posted photos of herself, according to the complaint.
But Smith’s husband said he had no medical or insurance records showing that his wife had been treated for cancer. He did, however, tell police that he had overheard his wife on the phone with her employer, Marco Protection Systems in Downingtown, pretending to be a nurse at Penn Medicine calling to say she needed time off from work because she was recovering from cancer treatment.
When police called Smith’s office, a vice president in the human resources department told officers that Smith was “very ill from a medical condition and ... was on paid time off,” according to the complaint. She also told her employer that she needed time off because of the recent death of her father, who, police later learned, was alive in Uwchlan Township.
Investigators then contacted Penn Medicine, where Smith had said she was receiving cancer treatment, with a search warrant seeking her medical records, according to the complaint.
But before they received the records, Smith went to the Uwchlan Township Police Department to file a report of her own: She was being harassed online, she told police, by people who were leaving comments on her Facebook and GoFundMe pages, accusing her of faking her cancer diagnosis.
In a recorded conversation, she told police that she was going through chemotherapy treatment at Penn and produced “plain paper with no Penn Medicine logos, headers or footers” with dates and times of cancer treatments, according to the complaint.
Smith gave police the names of two Penn doctors she said were treating her for cancer. One doctor’s assistant told police that Smith had never been their patient. Another told police that while Smith was a patient of his, he was treating her for anemia, not cancer.
Records obtained in the search warrant showed that Smith was never treated for cancer at Penn. And police said Smith’s bank accounts were linked to the Facebook and GoFundMe pages.
Smith was arrested Monday and released on unsecured bail of $10,000. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for later this month. Attempts to reach her for comment were unsuccessful.