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Cancer cheat pleads guilty to fraud after faking terminal illness

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A woman who faked a cancer diagnosis to solicit tens of thousands of dollars from the north Queensland community has been sentenced to two years in jail.

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Lucy Wieland used social media and blog posts to document a fraudulent battle with terminal ovarian cancer in 2018.

She shaved her head and posed for photos, raising almost $55,000 for treatment costs through a crowdfunding website and extra donations from local appeals.

Wieland pleaded guilty in the Townsville Magistrates Court to six fraud-related offences and one count of possessing a restricted drug.

In sentencing, Magistrate Viviana Keegan ordered Wieland pay back more than $29,000 to victims of the fraud.

“The level of deception is beyond significant — you presented to the world that you were sick, you deceived your partner at the time,” she said.

“There’s also an extraordinary breach of trust to members of the public, who were empathetic towards you … and gave up money to try and help you when it was all just a lie.”

The court heard Wieland forged a doctor’s letter and defrauded her ex-partner, Bradley Congerton, who accessed $17,000 in loans to support her.

Congerton believed the money would be used to pay for treatment costs and harvest Wieland’s eggs.

During a search, police seized a bottle labelled as fertility medication, but which actually contained an antibiotic used to treat urinary tract infections.

Police prosecutor Sergeant Tim Madsen said Wieland went to great lengths to deceive the public.

“There was significant research undertaken by the defendant to ensure that what was displayed by her was convincing,” he said.

“This type of offending does … strike at the heart of public confidence in being able to donate to people.”

Scam ‘snowballed out of control’

Defence barrister Michael Hibble said a clinical assessment found Wieland was likely suffering from factitious disorder, also known as Munchausen syndrome, and genuinely thought she was sick.

“It is attention that she seems to have sought, which has then snowballed out of control,” he said.

“She had no control of how generous the Townsville community would be in relation to the donations.

“If her motivation was truly just money, it would seem odd that she would then go and spend money on medical supplies and treatment.”

Wieland cried and hugged family members before being led from the court in handcuffs.

She will be eligible for parole in February 2021 after serving six months in prison.

Wieland is due to give birth to her first child in October.

– ABC / Lily Nothling

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