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Police: Alabama woman faked cancer, lied about $17M Settlement


By Crystal Bonvillian, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

SHELBY COUNTY, Ala. — An Alabama woman is accused of faking terminal cancer and using two GoFundMe pages to bilk at least $38,000 from friends and family who were trying to help her.

Jennifer Flynn Cataldo, 37, of Sterrett, is charged with two counts of first-degree theft by deception, according to the Alabama Attorney General’s Office. She is being held in the Shelby County Jail in lieu of bonds totaling $100,000. Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a news release that his office began a joint investigation April 13 with the FBI. The probe centered on two GoFundMe fundraising pages in which Cataldo, a wife and mother, claimed to have terminal cancer.

The pages were used to solicit donations to pay for her family’s bills and a trip to Disney World.

Investigators established that Cataldo did not have cancer, the news release said. They believe that she acted alone in the scheme, fooling even her husband and parents into thinking she was sick.

Josh Moon, an investigative reporter and columnist for Alabama Political Reporter, wrote in a piece published Friday that the investigation began after Cataldo’s father contacted him for help exposing political corruption that he said was keeping Cataldo from a $17 million legal settlement that she had been awarded. The supposed corruption involved then-Attorney General Luther Strange and then-Gov. Robert Bentley, who Cataldo claimed were waiting for her to die so they could take the settlement she was due.

Moon wrote that when he reached out to an attorney and family friend whom Cataldo said was helping her build a case against the politicians, the lawyer knew nothing of Cataldo’s claims.

Moon said he and the lawyer determined that Cataldo’s story, from the cancer to her claims of winning a multimillion-dollar legal settlement, were not true.

“Over the next several days, as we put the pieces together, a clear picture emerged: For nearly seven years, Jenny Cataldo fooled an entire community, along with her parents and closest friends, into believing she was stricken with terminal cancer,” Moon wrote. “In reality, though, Cataldo used that tale to bilk her parents and dozens of friends, family members and strangers out of nearly a half-million dollars — most of it coming from her parents.”

Moon wrote that he and the lawyer turned over their information to authorities, who initiated the investigation that led to Cataldo’s arrest.

Cataldo’s parents have not pressed charges against her, and authorities do not believe they plan to do so, Moon wrote.

“I can’t understand why she would’ve done it,” Cataldo’s father, Robert Flynn, told Moon Thursday afternoon in a phone interview. “I just don’t know what would drive someone to do something like that. And I don’t know how she could keep us fooled for so long.”

Marshall said additional charges are possible because more people who gave Cataldo money could come forward.

“The joint federal and state investigation is continuing, and the Attorney General’s Office urges anyone with information or who may be a possible victim of Cataldo to contact the Criminal Trials Division by calling 334-353-1875,” the news release said.

No additional information was given in the release because the investigation is still active.

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