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Woman Who Faked Cancer Diagnosis Gets 5 Years in Prison

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June 3, 2022 -- A California woman who pretended to have cancer and received more than $100,000 in charitable donations from hundreds of people has been sentenced to 5 years in prison.

Amanda Christine Riley pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud for soliciting donations from people through various social media sites to help pay for cancer treatments that she never received or needed, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

In total, the government identified 349 individuals and entities who made contributions totaling $105,513. Riley was sentenced to 60 months in prison on May 3.

Riley is hardly the first person to fake a cancer diagnosis for money. In fact, the phenomenon of faking illness online now occurs so often that researchers have given it a name: "Munchausen by Internet." However, few appear to be penalized with prison time.

In this case, the scam began in 2012, when Riley falsely claimed to have been diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. She used Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and a blog to document her imaginary condition and "aggressively" solicit donations to cover her supposed medical expenses, the DOJ said.

Instead, Riley used the donations to pay living expenses.

According to the DOJ, Riley went to "great lengths to maintain her deception." She shaved her head to appear to be undergoing chemotherapy, faked her medical records, forged physicians' letters and medical certifications, and convinced family members to back up her false claims.

Riley's scheme continued for 7 years, until 2019, when her deception was uncovered by an investigation of the Internal Revenue Service and the San Jose Police Department. She was charged in July 2020 and pleaded guilty in October 2021.

In addition to serving 5 years in prison, Riley must pay back the $105,513 and undergo 3 years of supervision after her release.