An Alabama woman raised over a quarter of a million dollars while pretending to have terminal cancer for three years. From from 2014 to 2017, Jennifer Flynn Cataldo, 37, collected a total of $264,163 from donors through GoFundMe accounts and by asking for money on social media pages. In August, the former special education teacher pleaded guilty to wire fraud and bank fraud, according to People. Last Wednesday, she was sentenced to serve 25 months in prison in addition to paying restitution to her victims.
Cataldo spoke at her sentencing last week.
“I am overcome with sorrow,” she said, according to AL.com. “They trusted me, they loved me. I was deceitful and I lied. I’m sorry. I don’t know a better word than sorry. [...]I want to be a better person for my son, for my parents," she said Wednesday.
In court, Cataldo’s lawyer Adam Danneman said she developed a painkiller addiction after her brother died in 2014. He admitted that some of the money she raised went toward her painkiller habit.
“Her brother died, and she gave up,” Danneman said.
The prosecutors painted a less sympathetic portrait of the woman. According to WHNT, U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town said, “She engaged in an elaborate scheme that preyed upon the sympathy and generosity of her friends and family. Not only did she fake cancer to take their money, she used her minor child as part of her ruse and allowed the child to believe his mother was dying. She has earned every nickel of her punishment.”
After Cataldo is released from jail, she is expected to complete mental health and drug counseling. Her attorney has not spoken to the media.
One of the GoFundMe accounts for Cataldo was set up by a friend for Cataldo’s supposed medical expenses. Another GoFundMe was set up by Cataldo herself. On it, Cataldo wrote that she wanted to visit Disney World with her son before she died.
[Photo: Shelby County Jail]