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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Bay Area Woman Pleads Guilty To Wire Fraud For Soliciting Donations In Bogus Cancer Treatment Scheme

Defendant Admits Pocketing Over $100,000 in Donations

SAN JOSE – Amanda Christine Riley pleaded guilty in federal court today to wire fraud in connection with a scheme to solicit donations from individuals to help her pay for cancer treatments she never needed nor received, announced Acting United States Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Criminal Investigation, Special Agent in Charge Mark H. Pearson.  The Honorable Beth Labson Freeman, U.S. District Judge, accepted the plea.

According to the written plea agreement, Riley, 36, admitted that in September 2012, when she was living in San Jose, she devised and executed a plan to obtain money from donors by falsely claiming she had Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer.  Riley acknowledged her intent was to deceive people into believing she had cancer and, in doing so, to convince them to donate money to her.  She continued to execute that plan until at least January 3, 2019.

In approximately October 2012, Riley began documenting her purported illness on social media, including on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  She also created a blog located at http://lymphomacansuckitblogspot.com/.  On these social media platforms, she posted photos of medications, photos of herself at hospitals, and photos of herself allegedly suffering the side effects of chemotherapy.  Riley added captions to the photos with false statements claiming that she was taking cancer drugs and receiving cancer treatment. She even shaved her head to make it appear as if she had lost her hair as a result of chemotherapy.  

Riley admitted taking additional steps to raise money for her phony illness. For example, Riley’s blog included a link to a support page, http://www.supportamanda.com, which also included false information about Riley’s purported “battle with cancer.”  The support page featured a clickable “donate now” icon for visitors to donate money online, and encouraged visitors to donate money to “support Amanda” and help “Amanda’s battle with cancer.”  In addition, Riley organized several fundraisers, including in-person fundraisers at the Family Community Church in San Jose, to solicit donations and raise money for her supposed cancer-related expenses. 

In reality, Riley did not have – and has never had – Hodgkin’s lymphoma, or any other type of cancer.  When people donated to Riley over the internet or at in-person fundraisers, they believed their donations would be used to pay Riley’s cancer-related expenses.  In fact, Riley had no cancer-related expenses, and donors’ funds were simply deposited into Riley’s personal bank account.  In total, Riley admitted she received over four-hundred donations worth approximately $106,272 from her fake cancer fundraising scheme.

Today, Riley pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343.  Riley was charged on January 6, 2021, by felony information.

Judge Freeman scheduled Riley’s sentencing for February 22, 2022.  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.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Scott Simeon and Michael G. Pitman are prosecuting the case with the assistance of Sahib Kaur.  The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, and the San Jose Police Department.  
 

Updated October 13, 2021