Mom faked tot’s cancer for money, police say
A former Grand Junction resident solicited donations after falsely telling people her 4-year-old daughter was battling leukemia, convincing the girl in the process she had cancer, according to allegations lodged by police in Utah.
Abreail “Abby” Winkler, 30, of Vernal, posted bond after her arrest Tuesday on suspicion of one count of communications fraud, a third-degree felony, following an investigation started in July by the Vernal Police Department, according to an agency release. The owner of a Vernal-based clothing business, Winkler had received more than $3,000 in donations from several sources, including fundraisers and personal donations, while claiming her 4-year-old daughter had been diagnosed with leukemia, police said.
The girl’s father told police his daughter wasn’t sick, while Vernal police detective Shaun Smith told The Deseret News that the girl herself had come to believe she had cancer.
“Investigation revealed that the child had in fact never been diagnosed or treated for any form of cancer,” the police release said.
The detective also told The Deseret News some of those who gave money to Winkler — Smith indicated less than $5,000 in total was given — were families of children with their own legitimate cancer diagnoses.
A similar story involving Winkler’s older daughter is also under scrutiny, according to the Deseret report. The other daughter, 11, was a poster child for a recent “Be the Match” drive held in Vernal, which highlighted the need for bone marrow donors. Organizers represented Winkler’s 11-year-old daughter as having received a life-saving transplant.
“There’s nothing to substantiate that (11-year-old had cancer),” Smith told the newspaper.
The 4-year-old girl’s father became suspicious when Winkler started telling him she needed to take the girl to a hospital in Grand Junction for treatment.
Winkler attended Central High School during the 1998-1999 school year, although there’s no record she graduated, according to School District 51.
Mesa County court records show Winkler was cited and pleaded guilty to six traffic violations, such as permitting an unauthorized person to drive or following too closely, between 2000 and 2008. She was arrested by Grand Junction police in 2002 on suspicion of theft between $100 and $400. The case resolved with a two-year deferred sentence and court costs of $432.
Winkler was arrested again in Grand Junction in 2003 on suspicion of fraud by check and received a 45-day suspended jail sentence after pleading guilty. She was fined $1,265.