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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, August 11, 2017

Woman Charged For Defrauding Donors Of Over $50,000 By Misrepresenting That She Had Terminal Cancer

Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), and Emil Califano, Chief of the Village of Ardsley Police Department, announced today charges against VEDOUTIE HOOBRAJ, a/k/a “Shivonie Deokaran,” for allegedly engaging in a scheme to defraud donors through false representations that she had been diagnosed with terminal leukemia and needed money to pay for her treatments.   HOOBRAJ was arrested in Orlando, Florida this morning and will be presented before a Magistrate Judge in the Middle District of Florida. 

Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said:  “Vedoutie Hoobraj allegedly concocted an elaborate story about having cancer when she did not, using GoFundMe pages and accepting money raised by a local high school, all supposedly to fund her medical care.  Hoobraj even falsified medical records for donors to conceal the fraud.  I commend our law enforcement partners for thwarting this allegedly brazen fraud.”

Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said:  “Vedoutie Hoobraj went to great lengths to hide behind her self-fabricated cancer diagnosis.  Not only did she allegedly allow the people of her community to hold fundraisers on her behalf, including a local high school football team, but sat idly by as they showered her and her family with their love, money, and unwavering support.  To further aggravate the matter, as alleged, she actively peddled her story in an effort to make more money; falsely claimed that she received treatment from legitimate doctors and hospitals; and produced fake test results to support her claims. Hoobraj's alleged crime is not only an injustice to those who were kind enough to help her, but also to those who do truly need the support of their communities and may now be met with suspicion because of Hoobraj’s alleged behavior.    

According to the allegations in the Complaint[1] unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:

Beginning in at least about October 2014 and through at least March 2016, in Westchester County, New York, and elsewhere, HOOBRAJ engaged in a scheme that solicited donations through fraudulent representations that she had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and needed money for living and medical expenses.   

HOOBRAJ obtained donations from donors through checks and fund transfers to two GoFundMe fundraising websites set up in October 2014 and August 2015 on her behalf.  The GoFundMe websites represented, among other things, that HOOBRAJ was diagnosed with leukemia and given eighteen months to live, and that HOOBRAJ’s family was suffering financial burdens from her chemotherapy treatments and other medical and living expenses.  HOOBRAJ publicized the sites in online posts and emails, among other means. 

As alleged in the Complaint, HOOBRAJ received in excess of $50,000 in donations from over 300 individuals in Ardsley, New York, and elsewhere based on these and other related misrepresentations.   Between October 2014 and December 2015, HOOBRAJ transferred a total of approximately $32,600 from an Ohio bank account operated by GoFundMe’s payment processor vendor to HOOBRAJ’s bank account in New York.  In or about November 2015, HOOBRAJ deposited two donation checks totaling $16,274 from the Student Activity Fund of Ardsley High School, in Ardsley, New York, representing proceeds of a fundraising event organized in part by a donor (“Individual-1”).  HOOBRAJ also deposited other donation checks.

In an interview with a detective at the Ardsley Police Department on or about January 20, 2016, HOOBRAJ stated, among other things, that she had been diagnosed with terminal cancer by a specified doctor at Sloan Kettering Medical Center who died in an earthquake in Nepal in April 2015, was currently being treated by another specified doctor, and had also gone to “Mount Kisco Medical Center” and “Bronx Lebanon Hospital” for treatments.  However, as alleged in the Complaint, HOOBRAJ had never been treated by these doctors and medical centers.

In or about March 2016, in an effort to prove that she had cancer, HOOBRAJ used the online messaging platform Facebook Messenger to send Individual-1 a screenshot of HOOBRAJ’s purported laboratory tests from a January 29, 2016, examination at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx, New York (“Jacobi”).  The results presented by HOOBRAJ appeared to indicate that her hemoglobin, platelet counts, and red blood cell counts were all outside the stated normal ranges.  Records obtained from Jacobi as part of this investigation, however, revealed that the document sent by HOOBRAJ was a forgery, and that the actual medical record previously provided by Jacobi to HOOBRAJ stated, “Your labs turned out to show no abnormalities.”  

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VEDOUTIE HOOBRAJ, a/k/a “Shivonie Deokaran,” 38, of Orlando, Florida, has been charged in the Complaint with one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum prison term of 20 years.

Mr. Kim praised the investigative work of the FBI and the Ardsley Police Department.  Mr. Kim also thanked the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office for its assistance. 

This case is being handled by the Office’s White Plains Division.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Vladislav Vainberg is in charge of the prosecution.                  

 

[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Complaint and the description of the Complaint set forth herein constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: 
17-251
Updated August 11, 2017