Bay Area Woman Charged With Wire Fraud For Soliciting Donations In Bogus Cancer Treatment Scheme
Defendant Allegedly Claimed She Flew To New York City For Treatments And Pocketed Over $50,000 in Online Donations
SAN JOSE- A criminal complaint was filed today charging Amanda C. Riley with wire fraud in connection with a scheme to solicit donations from individuals to help pay for cancer treatments she never needed nor received, announced United States Attorney David L. Anderson and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Criminal Investigation, Special Agent in Charge Kareem Carter.
According to the complaint, between October 2012 and February 2016, Riley, a resident of Gilroy, Calif., claimed to have Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer. The complaint alleges Riley falsely claimed at various times and to various individuals that she was receiving cancer treatment at hospitals, including Kaiser Permanente, City of Hope National Medical Center, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Columbia University Hospital, and UCSF Medical Center. Riley chronicled her purported illness on social media, including on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and her blog, and used her purported illness as a basis to solicit donations she claimed would help pay for her medical expenses. The complaint alleges that, in reality, Riley did not have Hodgkin’s lymphoma and had not been diagnosed with or treated for Hodgkin’s lymphoma or any other type of cancer.
The complaint describes numerous ways in which Riley convinced her victims to send her money. For example, Riley’s blog included numerous bogus photos depicting such things as Riley supposedly receiving cancer treatment at hospitals, her supposed cancer medications, her friends and family wearing “Team Amanda” bracelets, and gifts she received from supporters. The blog also contained numerous references to fundraisers that were held for her benefit. In addition, Riley claimed she traveled to New York City to receive cancer treatments and asked for donations to help defray her travel costs. In September 2013, her blog added a link to a support page, http://www.supportamanda.com. The support page enabled people to donate money online. To further conceal her scheme to defraud, on or about April 6, 2016, Riley altered a doctor’s note to read that she was “in treatment for cancer.”
Other people who became aware of Riley’s campaign also organized fundraisers on her behalf. Such fundraisers included a Facebook challenge; a CrossFit fundraiser; a Christmas ornament sale fundraiser; a quilt raffle; a Chili’s Grill & Bar fundraiser; and the auction on eBay of various items, including an electric guitar autographed by American country music artists such as John Michael Montgomery and LeAnn Rimes.
Riley received donations through her online support page and in the form of checks from friends, family, and members of her church donors. Between September 13, 2013, and March 15, 2016, Riley received 447 online donations totaling $60,272.43 though her support page alone— after paying fees, Riley pocketed $58,256.86 from her online support page during this period. The criminal complaint alleges that, rather than use the donated money to pay for medical expenses, Riley deposited the funds into her personal bank account and used the money to pay for her personal expenses.
Riley is charged with one count of wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343.
The complaint merely alleges that a crime has been committed, and Riley, like all defendants, is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
If convicted, Riley faces a maximum statutory penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss resulting from the scheme. In addition, the court may order additional terms of supervised release and restitution. However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
Riley is scheduled to appear before Judge Susan van Keulen on August 27, 2020.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Simeon is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Tong Zhang. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, and the San Jose Police Department.