Mandy Hargraves of Lake Park, GA turned herself in to police this past Monday after authorities say she faked cancer for financial gain.
In 2015, a GoFundMe account was reportedly established in her name to raise money for cancer treatments; there were fundraisers, too, according to the sheriff’s office.
The sheriff’s office began looking into the fundraising activities when event organizers and donors began questioning the use of the funds.
The sheriff’s office spent a year investigating the allegations, looking through medical files and gathering information requiring a lot of paperwork and special permission, in order to keep patient privacy, Jones said.
He said the case reflects a rising national trend of false donation campaigns with the creation of GoFundMe and social media. The sheriff’s captain urges people to know who they are donating to and encourages donors to research prior to giving money to any campaign.
Hargraves claimed that she was diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer of the stomach, lymph nodes, bloodstream, and heart. Her community quickly rallied together under the hashtag #MandyStrong to support her alleged fight for her life. Under the guise of helping with medical expenses, shirts were even sold.
Now, officials say, it was all a lie. Supporters and cancer survivors in her community are understandably upset to find out they’ve been duped.
The GoFundMe page has been removed, but we dug up an archived copy which can be found here. In a final update to the page, campaign owner Leanne Bennett expressed deep regret for having started the page for someone she believed to be a friend in need:
“It is with a lot of prayer and soul searching that I am posting this update! I told the investigator that I would not post until the investigation into the validity of Mandy’s cancer was complete, however, since it was posted on the Mandy Strong page and I have received so many messages asking questions, I feel compelled to explain what I know at this time. For The past few months, her close circle of friends who loved her began to question many things that Mandy was telling us about her condition that did not add up. Even though we all questioned it in our minds, we did not speak to each other about it because we could not believe she would lie about something so detrimental to her children and everyone that loves her. Finally, things began to become clear to us that things were definitely not right. We talked to each other but still not to anyone else. Finally, I saw for myself that she was lying to me about where and when she was going to the doctor. I have seen the explanation of benefits from her insurance that show no scans at all. No PET scans that she said she had 2 of. No MRI, No CT scans no biopsy and no oncology appointments. No Appt’s to Mayo clinic after October 6th and only to the cardiologist. She told me personally on her front porch on Halloween that she was diagnosed with Stage 4 Stomach cancer that was in her lymph nodes and blood stream. I was devastated! This was one I my closest friends, I believed, and she was dying. Obviously, I immediately wanted to help and asked if she wanted me to do this Go Fund Me for her and she said yes. I whole heartedly apologize to everyone that donated to this page. I believed when I started it that my “friend” was dying and her family would need help. There is an active investigation at this time with the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office for theft by deception for her taking the money and I have given a statement. The money from this account was given to Mandy in front of other people at a public place. For me the money is not what is most important although I know some people that have given really could not afford to and yes I gave but the most important part is her children who will be affected by this for the rest of their lives and all the kids who thought she was dying because her child told all of her friends including my children who still don’t understand how or why anyone would lie about dying. Again I apologize this occurred and that my name was on this account asking for help. unfortunately I will think twice before reaching out so quickly again. I should have listened to my gut instinct and my police officer instinct that I kept pushing to the side because all I kept thinking was “Who Does That”. I guess I found out the hard way”
What’s that bit GoFundMe always tells people about only donating to folks you know? Yeah, guess that isn’t always fail-safe either.
Thanks to people like Ms Hargraves, now generous people will be that much more skeptical when someone in their community really needs the help. Nice work, you scheming jackass!