What to Know
A woman who faked a terminal illness to solicit money online has been sentenced to 24 months in prison
The woman, Vedoutie Hoobraj, using the alias Shivonie Deokaran, used to live in Dobbs Ferry and spent two years conning people
Prosecutors say she went to great lengths to advance the scam, including shaving her head as if she was going through chemotherapy
A 38-year-old woman has been sentenced to 24 months in prison for pretending she had terminal cancer and just 18 months to live in order to solicit money online, ultimately raising $50,000, then fleeing the state, authorities said Friday.
The woman, Vedoutie Hoobraj, using the alias Shivonie Deokaran, used to live in Dobbs Ferry and spent two years -- from October 2014 through March 2016 -- faking a terminal cancer diagnosis in Westchester County and elsewhere, according to a federal complaint. She went to great lengths to advance the scam, including shaving her head as if she was going through chemotherapy.
In October 2014, a friend set up a fundraising page for Hoobraj online, describing Hoobraj as a single mother working as a photographer to support her two sons "while fighting through ongoing chemotherapy and blood transfusions," and said that she had no insurance of any kind.
The page showed photos of Hoobraj, with a shaved head, posing with her teen sons and her boyfriend at the time.
The next summer, one of Hoobraj's sons, then 16 years old, created another GoFundMe page, saying, "the Drs is [sic] giving our Mom a timeline of 18 months," and "My mom and our family is worried about losing [the family dog] Gia, we have until September 10, 2015 to find a new place to live... where they will allow us to keep Gia."
The bank account linked to both fundraising pages belonged to Hoobraj, according to prosecutors.
On the same day that Hoobraj's son set up the GoFundMe page, the fundraiser was publicized in an article online, in which Hoobraj was quoted as being told "there's nothing left they can do -- she has only 18 months left to live."
Hoobraj then emailed the link to the article to a guidance counselor at her son's high school, Ardsley High School. The counselor donated $50 and sent the link to other people. The following month, the school football team organized a spaghetti fundraising dinner, raising more than $16,000 for Hoobraj.
The FBI says Hoobraj used all the money from cancer-related solicitations to pay rent, ordinary living expenses and businesses expenses, among other things. None was used for any apparent cancer-related medical expenses.
By August 2017, she was tracked down in Orlando by FBI agents. She admitted to them she didn't have leukemia when she was collecting money and that she "made a mistake" she wishes she could take back, according to the complaint.
Hoobraj pleaded guilty in January in connection with the case. Hoobraj also faces three years of supervised release and was ordered to pay forfeiture in the amount of $51,938 and $47,741.20 in restitution to the victims.
“In a cynical exploitation of people’s generosity, Vedoutie Hoobraj created an elaborate fiction about having cancer to reap charitable contributions from well-meaning donors," U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey S. Berman said in a statement. "Hoobraj even falsified medical records to conceal the fraud. Today, she has learned to the price of such brazen conduct."