CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP/CBS4) – A woman who lied about her son having cancer to collect tens of thousands of dollars in charitable contributions learned her sentence Tuesday morning.
Sandy Nguyen of Aurora pleaded guilty in September to one count of charitable fraud and one count of child abuse. A judge sentenced her to 90 days in jail with work release, 5 years probation with therapy and 125 hours of public service.
Police say she convinced her 6-year-old son Jaiden, family and others in the community that the boy had cancer and had been receiving treatment since about September 2012.
Various community and school fundraisers raised some $25,000 for the family, and police say Nguyen took at least $16,000 of that money to pay for a trip to Disneyland with her family. Investigators said some of the money raised during the scheme was found in the family’s home.
At the sentencing hearing Nguyen’s defense said the scam began after Nguyen’s son was diagnosed with a skin condition and that she did not set out to deceive people. But she failed to stop the situation when donations started pouring in.
Nguyen’s victims also testified. One woman said she organized a 5K run to raise funds for medical expenses.
“For me, 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 said. “You can’t wrap your head around it. Who does that? Who makes their child believe they’re dying of cancer?”
Nguyen didn’t testify, and she didn’t speak at her sentencing.
Prosecutors say Nguyen had many opportunities to stop the lying but instead claimed the cancer was in remission and faked that it was back a second time, even duping her own son.
“Shaving his head and telling him he was going to die from cancer … is just unconscionable and a horrific aspect of the case,” Senior Deputy District Attorney Jacob Edson said.
The notion that Nguyen would concoct such as scheme was so preposterous to some, she was initially defended in the community after her arrest.
Jaiden, who is healthy, and his siblings now live with their father. Nguyen didn’t speak to reporters as she left court.
Some victims in the case said Friday they felt sorry for Nguyen.
“That, to me, is not a mentally stable human being,” Alisha Horton said. “I can have a little compassion for Sandy and hope that she gets the help she needs to overcome whatever demons brought her there.”
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