Prosecutors said a South Bay woman who solicited more than $100,000 in donations by pretending to have cancer was sentenced to five years in prison in federal court in San Jose on Tuesday.
The woman, Amanda Christine Riley, had pleaded guilty in October to one count of wire fraud for a seven-year scheme based on the fraudulent claim that she had cancer and needed money to pay for medical treatments, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California said in a news release.
Amanda Christine Riley raised $105,513 from at least 349 people after claiming on social media and her blog that she was fighting Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Riley, who was living in San Jose at the time, began writing about the need to pay for medical care in 2012. Prosecutors said she shaved her head to seem as if she was receiving chemotherapy, faked medical documents, and forged physicians’ letters and medical certifications to sustain her deceit.
She deposited the donations into her personal bank accounts and used the funds to pay her living expenses, authorities said.
Here’s what the agency said in a news release:
“Although she was not actually ill, Riley carefully cultivated a social media presence, using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and a blog. She used her presence on these sites to ‘document’ her nonexistent medical condition, and to aggressively solicit donations, supposedly to cover her medical expenses.”
The fraud went on until the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation and the San Jose Police Department discovered it in 2019. Riley was charged criminally in July 2020, and on Oct. 12, 2021, he pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud.
Riley risked a maximum sentence of 20 years in jail. Jodi Linker and Dejan Gantar, her federal public defenders, urged that their client be sentenced to only six months in jail.
Here’s what Linker and Gantar wrote in a sentencing memorandum:
“Ms. Riley recognizes the seriousness of her offense. She is extremely remorseful and is determined to do everything possible both to make restitution and to earn the forgiveness of the people she has hurt. She is a devoted wife and mother and, before her actions ended her career, she was a gifted teacher.
“While she does not have cancer, she does suffer from very real medical and mental health problems.”
Riley was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount she received from contributors, in addition to her prison sentence. Following her release from prison, she will be subject to three years of monitoring.
UPDATE: This is the “support page” for Amanda Christine Riley, charged by @USAO_NDCA w/wire fraud for pocketing $58K in donations after falsely claiming that she had Hodgkin’s lymphoma, per @IRS_CI, seeking anyone who may have been duped pic.twitter.com/aRAMoExZ3s
— Henry K. Lee (@henrykleeKTVU) July 28, 2020