Charges: MN man faked cancer, got thousands of dollars in donations

Even his wife was fooled.

Last year, he was in a public fight against cancer, and raised tens of thousands of dollars for his cause.

Now, he's headed to court, accused of being a fraud.

Jeremiah Jon Smith of Faribault has been charged in Rice County with theft by swindle, with prosecutors saying he faked cancer for personal gain.

According to the charges, the 37-year-old started claiming he had been diagnosed with stage 4 terminal cancer in late 2015, telling people he had just months to live. 

Smith quit his job, and a GoFundMe account was soon set up on his behalf, charges say. The page racked up about $6,800 in donations, but the support didn't end there. 

Family and friends organized at least two public fundraisers in February 2016. The events were a success: one made local news, and together, they brought in over $15,000.

Smith spent "all of the money from the fundraisers," the charges say. Some of it went toward "outstanding bills," and the rest to the smartphone game “Clash of Clans," drinking, dart tournaments, and marijuana.

The scheme comes to an end

In May 2016, a few months after the fundraising events, Faribault police received a complaint about Smith, with the unnamed tipster reporting "possible theft by fraud."

And according to the charges, Smith's wife was one of the people who grew suspicious. She began looking for – but could not find – proof of her husband's illness, and when she tried to obtain medical records, he stonewalled her.

Prosecutors say he did the same to the cops when they began investigating, giving them the runaround when they asked him to provide documentary evidence of his cancer. 

When they got a search warrant to dig deeper, Smith's doctor confirmed that there had never been any cancer diagnosis. 

Under state law, Smith is now facing up to 10 years in prison, as well as a fine of $20,000 if he's convicted. 

But according to WCCO, he will probably only get probation, since he has no criminal record.

The station says his first court appearance is scheduled for early November.

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