Party girl who faked cancer to get donations from friends and family jailed for 'despicable' scam
A 24-year-old in Australia pretended to have cancer and swindled over €23,000 from her parents and friends in a “despicable” scam to fund her partying, drug use and overseas travel.
Hanna Dickenson, then 19, convinced her parents she only had weeks to live and desperately needed money for a lifesaving treatment and for travel to New Zealand and Thailand for special procedures.
Her parents, who are farmers, could not afford the alleged treatments and asked neighbours and friends to assist.
Nathan and Rachel Cue, who were neighbours, took money out of their mortgage and donated around €12,621 but went to police after spotting images that Dickenson posted on Facebook which showed her drinking and partying.
“I started looking into it, doing my homework,” Mr Cue told Channel Nine. “I spent a fair bit of time and sussing things out and [I was] 100 per cent scammed. So that’s when I took it to the police.”
Police eventually charged Dickenson with obtaining property by deception. She pleaded guilty to seven charges.
Describing her offence as “despicable”, a court in the state of Victoria sentenced Dickenson, now a real estate agent, to three months in jail, 150 hours of community work and treatment for mental health issues and substance abuse.
“It smacks of a Walter Mitty kind of lifestyle,” said magistrate David Starvaggi.
"Ms Dickenson has engaged in conduct that tears at the very heartstrings of human nature."
The court ordered her to repay her numerous victims and heard she would lose her job.
Beverley Lindsay, Dickenson's lawyer, likened the case to that of Belle Gibson, a fake wellness blogger in Australia who claimed to have survived brain cancer after using alternative therapies and nutrition. She was fined £220,000 for profiting from her false claims but not jailed.
"Yes, [Dickenson] has harmed some people … she didn't ask them directly though," Ms Lindsay told the court.
"She hasn't engaged in this behaviour for three years, she's been a model worker … she's turned her life around, she's proven that. To send her to prison now sends her backwards.”
But the magistrate said her conduct “beggars belief” and a prison sentence was vital to deterring future scams.