19-year-old charged with faking cancer to pocket donations

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Investigators say a Wisconsin woman has been charged with theft after tricking people into thinking she had cancer and using donations to buy cigarettes and pizza, WSAW reports.

Celina R. Winchell, 19, of Merrill in north-central Wisconsin, on Thursday pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor charges of theft and obstruction, the station reports.

A woman who had befriended Winchell ultimately helped tip police when she noticed that Winchell did not show any signs of illness and was freely spending money, WSAW reports.

Court records indicate that Winchell told police she had never claimed to have cancer and said it was only “a possibility."

But Winchell left evidence on Facebook that suggests otherwise, including this Jan. 14 post:

And this post that says, "LIKE if you wish cancer didn't exist. I'm fighting it now:"

Post by Celina Winchell.

Among those who say they were duped were Kelly Guillaume, who read about Winchell on social media and knit the 19-year-old a hat, which she hand-delivered.

"She did say to me that she was in stage 4 cancer, she didn't know how long she had to live." Guillaume told WSAW.

WSAW also interviewed Danielle Friedrich, who worked at a pizza restaurant and arranged for collection jars there for Winchell. She even let Winchell stay at her home. But Friedrich said Winchell raided the jars and was not spending the money on medical expenses. About $150 was collected in the jars.

Friedrich shared her suspicions with managers, who shared them with police.

Assistant District Attorney Lisa Gramer told WSAU that Winchell faces a more severe punishment because of past convictions. Winchell was convicted in December on charges of theft and possession of an illegally obtained prescription, the Wausau Daily Herald.

A June trial date has been set, and a pretrial conference in the case is set for April 7.

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