An Illinois woman convicted earlier this year of falsely claiming she had cancer so she could collect donations will spend more time behind bars after a judge decided her original sentence was not long enough.
Melissa D. Barton, of Troy, Illinois, was sentenced in July to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of felony theft by deception. She appeared in a Madison County courtroom Thursday with her public defender, asking the judge to release her on probation because her sentence was unfair. Instead of granting the motion, Judge Kyle Napp tacked six months onto her prison term.
Barton’s original conviction came after she solicited funds through donation sites like YouCaring, claiming she had cancer and her son was suffering from leukemia, according to reports. However, the state claimed that the internet was not the only tool she used to bilk contributors. Barton also accepted cash from community service and religious organizations.
Although she pleaded guilty, Barton said she didn’t really intend to swindle anyone. She said someone else set up the fundraisers when they learned of her “health scares” she says she “jumped to conclusions” about in 2014. She said her son was born 10 weeks premature and had a variety of health problems.
Regardless, prosecutors say Barton later found out she and her son were not stricken with cancer but kept donations anyway. If that wasn’t enough, the state said Barton continued the scam while going by several aliases in order to manipulate people into giving her cash.
Barton must also serve 30 months of probation when she’s released from prison and pay $1,290 in restitution.
“The defendant in this case played on the emotions of donors and fraudulently collected funds that should have gone to community members that are actually impacted by cancer and other illnesses,” Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons said in a release.
Barton is the second Illinois woman in the last year to be sentenced for collecting money from a phony cancer claim. Alissa Jackson, of Belleville, received three years in prison for falsely claiming she was dying of ovarian cancer.
Like Barton, Jackson claimed it was someone else who solicited the funds. While investigators did discover that one of Jackson’s friends organized fundraisers, she was not complicit in the scam. The friend was duped into believing Jackson had terminal cancer and quickly organized a band of supports she called Alissa’s Army, who donated thousands of dollars for treatments Jackson was not undergoing. In addition to online donations, the group raised money through fundraisers at local bars and restaurants, events Jackson attended pretending to have cancer.
[Featured Image By Madison County Sheriff’s Department]