A California woman has been sentenced to five years in prison for faking a cancer diagnosis and swindling donors out of $105,513, a judge ruled on Tuesday.
Amanda Christine Riley of San Jose faked a Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosis and said in 2012 she required donations to cover her medical expenses. The 37-year-old went so far as to blog about her “journey” on social media, shave her head, and lie to her family. She has been ordered to pay restitution to those she scammed and will be under supervision for three years after she completes her time locked up.
“When people donated to Riley over the internet or at in-person fund-raisers, they believed their donations would be used to pay Riley’s cancer-related expenses,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office wrote in a statement. “In fact, Riley had no cancer-related expenses, and donors’ funds were simply deposited into Riley’s personal bank account.”
In October 2012, Riley launched a blog titled “Lymphoma Can Suck It” and posted photos of herself while she talked about her treatment. She claimed to have been diagnosed that June and experienced a brief remission period until the supposed Stage 4 metastatic cancer reemerged “with a vengeance.”
She additionally falsified medical records and forged doctors’ notes and certificates to convince her family and peers her disease was real. She listed hospitals where she supposedly was a patient, including Johns Hopkins.
Riley carried on with this scheme until 2020, when the IRS charged her with one count of wire fraud. She pled guilty to the charge last fall. Following her plea, she lost her job as principal at Pac Point Christina Academy in Gilroy, and moved her husband and two sons to Texas while she awaited trial.
Defense lawyer Jodi Linker sought to reason with Judge Beth Labson Freeman, arguing her client was remorseful and should only spend five years behind bars.
“Ms. Riley recognizes the seriousness of her offense,” Linker to the judge in court documents obtained by the Daily Mail. “She is extremely remorseful and is determined to do everything possible both to make restitution and to earn the forgiveness of the people she has hurt.”
Thomas Maneri and Tom Maneri, Riley’s father and brother, also wrote to the judge and said they stood by her despite the lie.
“I’m confident she was in too deep and didn’t know how to climb back out of the hole she had been digging for so long,” Tom wrote to the court. “After you’ve been living with a big lie on your chest for years, I can imagine it becomes part of your identity.”
Thomas Maneri added in his own statement that Riley’s behavior caused some anger but that he still loves his daughter. “Our family struggled last Fall when Amanda finally told us all the truth,” he wrote. “But thru our anger, we still see the light in her and have seen the Hell she has been through that we wouldn’t wish on anyone.”