A 24-year-old woman who pretended she had cancer to scam money from her unsuspecting family and friends has been jailed.
Hanna Dickenson, who is from Melbourne, Australia, was 19 when she tearfully told her parents that she had terminal cancer and needed money for treatment in Thailand and New Zealand. She said that she would die within months if she didn’t get the treatment.
Struggling financially themselves, Dickenson’s parents turned to their friends and neighbors for help, eventually managing to raise $32,000.
One of the biggest donors, who put in $7,750 of his own money, was an actual cancer sufferer who had just been discharged from the hospital after grueling treatment.
Once she got the money, Dickenson spent it on drugs, alcohol and overseas vacations, all while still pretending to be desperately ill.
But Dickenson’s Facebook photos told a different story and eventually one of her victims called police after finding a host of partying pictures online.
Detectives tracked down numerous other victims and Dickenson’s scam started to unravel.
On Tuesday, Dickenson, who now works as a real estate agent in Melbourne, was sentenced to three months in jail and 150 hours of community service in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court. She was also ordered to complete treatment for substance abuse and mental health issues.
Magistrate David Starvaggi described her behavior as “despicable.”
“It beggars belief that she approached her parents for assistance purporting to be suffering from … grave ill health,” he said.
“People’s conscious desire to assist has been touched … that’s the social trust,” he said. “I couldn’t think of a worse case to manifest itself needing both specific and general deterrence.”
Dickenson’s lawyers have said she planned to appeal the decision.