Speed Reads

Crime and punishment

Australian woman gets jail time for 'despicable' cancer scam

An Australian woman has been sentenced to three months in jail after lying about having terminal cancer and using donations from concerned friends and family on vacations, but her attorney says this isn't fair because she only scammed people out of $31,000.

After Hanna Dickenson, 24, told her parents she had cancer and needed to get medical treatment overseas, donations started coming in; Judge David Starvaggi said that in one case, a cancer patient donated to her while undergoing his own treatment. Since Dickenson didn't actually have cancer, the money wasn't spent on medical care, but rather on vacations and going out with friends. A donor turned her in to the police after becoming suspicious of photos she posted on Facebook, BBC News reports.

Starvaggi called the scheme "despicable," and said Dickenson "engaged in conduct that tears at the very heartstrings of human nature." She pleaded guilty to seven charges of obtaining property by deception, but Dickenson's lawyer, Beverley Lindsay, said she shouldn't have to do time because she has "turned her life around," and also, Dickenson didn't pull in as much money as blogger Belle Gibson, who was fined $317,000 last year for falsely saying she survived brain cancer. Starvaggi told Lindsay to stop comparing apples to oranges, and said this should serve as a warning to anyone else planning on carrying out a similar scam.