A Florida Panhandle woman has been sentenced to 364 days in jail for faking cancer to scam $19,000 from kind-hearted neighbors, reports the Pensacola News Journal.
43-year-old Sonja Luker and her husband Gerald Luker solicited donations from family, friends, co-workers and church members from 2004 to 2010, according to an arrest report. Investigators said the couple used $14,000 to keep their home out of foreclosure in 2009 and another $4,000 to buy a Harley Davidson motorcycle for Gerald Luker.
The house of cards came tumbling down when Luker was charged with larceny and fraud in April 2011; her husband, who according to an assistant state attorney believed in his wife's illness, wasn't prosecuted after making restitution and a donation to the American Cancer Society.
In court, psychiatrist Guido Ludergnani testified Luker has factitious disorder, in which patients fake illnesses, but said the condition wouldn’t prompt an afflicted person to attempt profiting from it, according to the News Journal report.
Judge Joel Boles was unsympathetic: "This, from my perspective, is the worst form of deceit from the standpoint of faking a major illness and people coming to your rescue and raising money to take care of debts that are owed by you," he told Luker. "I think that goes well beyond the provisional diagnosis of factitious disorder."
According to the Atmore Advance, the deception hit close to home. Sonja Luker's now-former best friend, Jessica Cloud, raised nearly $9,000 hosting an event at her restaurant when Luker claimed doctors had found an expensive cure for her cancer.
“Last year, Sonja, who has been battling cancer for six years, received a phone call from M.D. Anderson saying that they may have a treatment,” Cloud told the Advance in 2010. “She was elated, but then devastated when she found out that her co-pay was $14,000.”
Luker even created a nonprofit organization with Cloud called the Kickin’ Cancer Foundation, hosting an all-day event with live music, crafts, vendors, food, games, car show, and 600-mile motorcycle ride.
In addition to a year in jail on fraud and larceny charges, Luker was sentenced to 18 months of probation and 200 hours of community service.
Shockingly, she's not the only woman to fake cancer for cash: a New York woman faked terminal cancer in 2010 to get a free wedding in Aruba.
Recently, a Virginia woman was fined after it was discovered she scammed people into believing she was a four-time cancer survivor. See her acting chops below:
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