BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama woman was jailed Friday on charges of stealing at least $38,000 by portraying herself as a terminal cancer patient in a pair of online fundraising schemes.
Jennifer Flynn Cataldo, 37, of Sterrett was charged with two counts of theft by deception, according to a statement from the state attorney general’s office. Bond was set at $100,000.
Cataldo did not yet have a lawyer to speak on her behalf, court records showed. She was arrested Thursday in Shelby County, a suburb of Birmingham.
Cataldo was accused of using two GoFundMe drives to solicit money for medical bills and a family trip to Disney. While the campaigns portrayed Cataldo as someone with a terminal case of cancer, authorities said an investigation showed that wasn’t true.
GoFundMe said such cases were rare and donors would get their money back.
“We are working with law enforcement officials. If the funds cannot be recovered, GoFundMe will refund donors,” said company spokesman Bobby Whithorne. “Either way, donors are fully protected.”
Authorities said they believe Cataldo acted alone.
Cataldo signed a form stating that she was married, has been unemployed for five years and has no income, records show.
Cataldo is in need of mental health care and could pose a risk to herself and her family, prosecutors said in a court document.