Cherie Howie is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Woman who faked cancer 'enjoyed the attention'

A woman who falsely claimed she had cancer was sentenced today.
A woman who falsely claimed she had cancer was sentenced today.

A young mum given more than $26,000 in donations after faking cancer has a disorder that causes her to deliberately feign illness, a court heard today.

The disorder, previously known as Munchausen Syndrome, is called Factitious Disorder.

The 24-year-old woman sobbed as Judge Claire Ryan in the Auckland District Court granted her permanent name suppression and sentenced her to three months' community detention and 18 months' intensive supervision.

She must also pay a total of $14,200 reparation to her victims - Givealittle, Angel Project, Honda, Harvey Norman, a school board of trustees and a woman who paid $7000 for a private concert by a prominent musician.

The concert was to be a wedding gift for the woman's daughter, but the musician refused to do it after learning of the convicted woman's deception.

In total, the woman was convicted of six charges of obtaining by deception, with the total amount of money she received fraudulently reaching $26,606. She spent it all.

Judge Ryan told the court the deception began in 2014, when the woman told friends and family she had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Fundraising was set up on Givealittle and through the Angel Project, and cash and goods were donated by a school board of trustees, Harvey Norman and Honda.

When her deception became apparent, the woman told police she was someone who "had a lot of illnesses and ... didn't mean for it to go this far".

In a pre-sentence report, she indicated her offending was not deliberate, but Judge Ryan said she did not accept that.

"You knew what was happening and you enjoyed what was happening ... you enjoyed the attention. You took the money and you spent it."

However, she accepted a clinical psychologist's finding that the woman suffered from factitious disorder.

She had a history of somatic complaints and had been admitted to hospital 50 times between 2009 and 2014.

Judge Ryan said there was a direct link between the woman's condition and her fraud.

"While that might reduce your culpability to an extent, it doesn't take it away entirely. I must impose a sentence that is punitive, but primarily therapeutic."

In victim impact statements, Givealittle and the Angel Project leaders expressed fears the woman's actions could affect people's confidence that causes they were giving to were legitimate.

Those speaking on behalf of Honda and Harvey Norman said the companies would not support similar requests in the future, and the woman who spent $7000 for a concert that never took place said her family were "heartbroken" by the woman's deception.

"This was to be a wedding gift ... our daughter would've absolutely loved it, but we have never told her what happened as we know it would hurt her."

- NZ Herald

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