Earlier this month, reporter Josh Moon broke the story of Jenny Flynn Cataldo, a Birmingham woman who is said to have perpetuated a cancer scam going back seven years and stealing nearly half a million dollars in the process. Among her victims: her own parents, who emptied their savings to support the daughter they believed was dying.
Today, acting U.S. Attorney Robert Posey, FBI Special Agent in Charge Roger Stanton, and Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall announced a set of federal charges against Cataldo relating in part to a GoFundMe campaign set up by a friend to help pay medical bills she never actually had to pay. That effort raised over $25,000.
The 37-year-old is charged with eight counts of wire fraud and seven counts of bank fraud.
“This type of deception potentially impacts fund-raising efforts of websites and organizations that exist to raise money for families with true medical needs,” Posey said. “I applaud the cooperative efforts of the FBI and the Alabama Attorney General’s Office in investigating this crime and bringing it forward for prosecution.”
“Sadly, crimes like this make good people think twice before they are willing to be charitable,” Stanton said. “It is hard to comprehend how anyone could sink so low as to claim to have cancer just to fuel their greed.”
“I appreciate the prompt work of Acting U.S. Attorney Robert Posey and FBI Special Agent in Charge Roger Stanton in securing a federal indictment in this case in which state charges have also been brought by warrant,” Marshall said. “We stand together to fight this kind of alleged fraud in which many Good Samaritans from Alabama and other states were victimized. I look forward to working closely with our federal partners in obtaining a conviction and sending a message to would-be criminals that such fraud will be aggressively prosecuted.”
It is alleged that from 2014 from 2017 Cataldo held herself out as a terminal cancer sufferer, soliciting funds from friends, family, and neighbors for living and medical expenses. In early 2016, Cataldo organized a GoFundMe campaign called “Mom has Terminal Cancer Disney Trip” (an archived copy can be found here) to take a trip with her son.
“I have had cancer for two years and was just told it was it was inoperable! I would like to experience this with my 6 year son before I die within the year!” she wrote in the campaign, which went on to raise over $10,000.
In September of 2016, a friend — who, in good faith, believed Cataldo was suffering from terminal cancer — started another GoFundMe campaign to help the family with medical bills. Money from both GoFundMe campaigns was transferred into her personal bank account.
Cataldo also claimed that her son had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma and needed a bone marrow transplant. In the days leading up to the discovery of her scam as the Alabama Attorney General’s office and FBI were finishing up their investigation, Cataldo was reaching out to friends saying she needed $1000 as a “down payment” on a transplant to save her life.
The maximum penalty for each count of wire fraud is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The maximum penalty for bank fraud is 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
As for where all that money went? It appears it’s gone.