09/10/2013 04:20 pm ET

Shawnanna Starr Flores, Nevada Mother, Allegedly Used Child In Cruel Cancer Hoax

A Nevada woman is accused of faking her son's cancer in order to scam money out of her community, even going so far as to tell the boy that he was sick when he wasn't.

Shawnanna Starr Flores was arrested Sept. 6 after a joint investigation by Child Protective Services and Mesquite, Nev., police allegedly revealed that she had been lying about her son's liver cancer. The 33-year-old mother faces a number of felony charges including fraud, theft and child abuse, according to KVVU.

According to the station, Facebook videos posted in July show Flores coaching her 7-year-old son through an appeal for money for his cancer treatment. Flores' Facebook profile appears to have been deactivated, but an excerpt of the video remains in a news report filed by the Fox affiliate.

"If someone says their child has cancer, you can't do anything but trust them," Mesquite Police Detective Sergeant MaQuade Chesley told KVVU. Chesley also said the boy believed his terminal illness is real.

The exact amount of money Flores received in her scam has not been disclosed by police, but the Reno Gazette-Journal reported that a community-organized fundraising carwash held to benefit the boy's supposed medical treatment in August raised $404. A bank account had been established at a Wells Fargo in Mesquite, Nev., and collection jars had been placed around town.

Friends were surprised to learn of the allegations.

"She just started crying and I believed her because she was supposed to be my friend so I thought that she wouldn't lie to me," Georgina Vargas told KTNV. "She was a nice, friendly person. I had never seen anything weird or out of the ordinary."

Flores has been in the news before. In 2012, Flores' biological son died while in the care of his stepmother, Kalinda Mercado. Mercado, 41, was charged with murder in May after police said she ignored the 12-year-old boy's appendicitis symptoms for a week, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported at the time.

Several other cancer hoaxes involving children have been reported across the United States this year.

In August, a Utah woman was accused of scamming her community out of thousands of dollars by telling people her daughter was diagnosed with cancer.

Earlier that month, an Indiana woman was arrested on suspicion of fraud after allegedly involving her son in a cancer scam. She allegedly told the boy -- as well as other family members and people in her community -- that a dark spot found on his lung in a chest x-ray was cancer, and later withheld that doctors had called to say it was nothing to worry about.



Cancer Fakers Caught