A 38-year-old woman from Westchester, New York who lied about having terminal cancer to fraudulently collect funds for her “treatment” has been arrested. According to NBC 4 New York, the woman identified as Vedoutie Hoobraj used another name – Shivonie Deokaran – to propagate her scam. Originally from Orlando, Florida, Hoobraj accepted donations from several sources and even ran multiple online fundraisers to collect more than $50,000 for her “treatment.” According to federal prosecutors, Hoobraj propagated the scan from October 2014 – until March 2016 and even used her sons to spread the lie. To make her story seem more realistic, she also shaved her head bald to make people believe that she was undergoing chemotherapy.
Following her arrest on Friday, Vedoutie was charged with one count of wire fraud. In case she is convicted, she could be sentenced to up to 20 years. A local school booster club was also tricked into the scam and raised more than $16,000 for her.
“It’s so selfish, I can’t even put a word on it. She played a great role, she put on a good act, she had everybody fooled,” Rob Wootten, co-president of the school booster club said.
It was in October 2014 that Hoobraj first set up an online fundraising campaign on GoFundMe. In the campaign, she claimed to be a single mother who worked as a photographer to raise her two sons. She claimed to have no insurance and added that she was undergoing chemotherapy and regular blood transfusions. The same page showed photographs of her with her sons and her boyfriend at the time.
Nearly a year later, another fundraiser was set up by one of Hoobraj’s sons who was 16-years-old at the time. This new fundraiser, again on GoFundMe, claimed that doctors have given only 18 months to his mother and that they are on the verge of losing their home as well. This fundraiser was also picked up by local publications. The scam perpetrated by Hoobraj came to light after one of her donors suspected something was amiss and confronted her on Facebook back in December 2016. Hoobraj responded to her three months later and sent her forged lab test results carried out at a local hospital.
Once the FBI started investigating the case, it was revealed that Hoobraj had also lied about the doctor who was reportedly treating her. When asked about it, she claimed that her doctor at Sloan Kettering Medical Center who diagnosed her had died in the 2015 Nepal earthquake. Additional investigation revealed that Hoobraj had used the money for her ordinary living and business expenses. Investigators failed to find any record of her undergoing treatment from any of the hospitals where she claimed to have undergone treatment.
More details regarding the case are set to be released in the next few days. The investigation is ongoing.
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