A 29-year-old Colorado woman will serve five years probation and spend 90 nights in jail for passing her son off as a cancer victim in a fundraising scam, KUSA-TV reported.
Sandy Nguyen was sentenced on Tuesday after pleading guilty in September to one count of charitable fraud and one count of child abuse for convincing her 6-year-old son that he was dying of leukemia. Her sentence will allow her to work during the day while being required to spend her nights in jail. She will also be required to seek therapy and perform 125 hours of community service.
Nguyen’s attorney said she did not set out to fool anyone, but became trapped in a “misunderstanding” after her son was diagnosed with a skin condition. According to court records, she shaved the boy’s head, and said in an online post that he had been diagnosed with cancer in April 2012.
She also posted that he had received chemotherapy treatments for more than 300 days, as well as radiation therapy and other treatments.
“Shaving his head and telling him he was going to die from cancer is just unconscionable and a horrific aspect of the case,” Arapahoe County Deputy District Attorney Jacob Edson said at Nguyen’s sentencing.
Nguyen’s ruse fell apart after investigators confirmed that, contrary to her online statements, the boy was not treated for cancer at Children’s Hospital of Denver, but moderate asthma and other minor ailments.
Investigators said that Nguyen used at least $16,000 of the money to pay for a trip to Disneyland in October 2013. More of the money was reportedly found in her home. The entire student body at the child’s school, Rolling Hills Elementary, contributed to one fundraiser, with some offering their own allowances and asking grandparents to contribute.
“I get moved by these kids emptying those piggy banks, giving up that Tooth Fairy money and being duped,” Rolling Hills Elementary teacher Colleen Thurber told KCNC-TV. “You can’t wrap your head around it. Who does that? Who makes their child believe they’re dying of cancer?”
The boy and Nguyen’s other three children are now living with their father.
Watch KCNC’s report, as aired on Tuesday, below.