Photos: Sandy Nguyen joins our list of alleged local cancer fakers
In its coverage of Sandy Nguen, who allegedly scammed $25,000 from friends and neighbors by pretending her son had cancer, 7News describes the alleged crime as "unbelievable."
In truth, however, it's all too easy to believe someone would perpetrate such a hoax -- since it's happened several times in Colorado over recent years. Look below to see our coverage of three previous cancer hoaxes, followed by the details of allegations against Nguyen.
Originally published September 1, 2010
In April 2009, we told you about Gunnison's Tausha Marsh, accused of faking cancer to collect thousands in donations.
When she pleaded guilty to this crime in February, Marsh's MySpace and Facebook pages begging for bucks were still online. And even as she prepares to serve 36 days in jail, the MySpace page still lingers, complete with a pitch that looks more pathetic with each passing day.
The "About Me" portion of the MySpace page reads:
Thanks for Supporting Tausha!
Tausha Marsh, 28, has been fighting bone cancer for four years and has been recently diagnosed with cervical cancer. Doctors in the U.S. have not given her a positive outlook, however she has been accepted as a patient by a cancer specialist in Amsterdam. This doctor specializes in alternative cancer treatments. She will be moving to the clinic early July 2008 and anticipates staying for 1 year for treatments. Cancer treatments are very expensive, and her doctor here in the U.S. estimates she will need $300,000 to cover treatments in Europe and to pay off her past medical bills. She needs all the support that she can get: thoughts, prayers and monetary donations are greatly appreciated. Tausha is a loving, energetic woman who is full of life. She graduated from Western State College of Colorado in 2004. Throughout her four years there, she was a scholarship player on the intercollegiate volleyball team, a walk-on for the basketball team for a year, and was very involved in the art department where she studied photography, painting, and graphic design. After graduation, she moved to Ft. Collins where she owns a photography business. In addition to her company, Tausha is frequently called to share her understanding and love for Special Education students and challenged groups within the area high schools. As an advid volleyball player, Tausha shares her talents through coaching at Loveland High School and in the Colorado State University Club Volleyball program. We will be hosting fundraising events on the Front Range of Colorado and in Gunnison, CO - stay tuned for dates and times. Thank you for your support. Let's help Tausha beat this and become healthy again!
Removing evidence of Marsh's admitted fraud from the public view would probably aid the healing process, too.
Continue for more information, photos and videos about cancer fakers, including the arrest of Sandy Nguyen. "Ann Crall: Cancer-faking Lakewood cop's wife pleads guilty to fraud, could get 15 years"
Originally published March 11, 2011
Remember Ann Crall, the Lakewood cop's wife who allegedly faked cancer in order to shake down folks -- including police officers -- for thousands in charitable donations? Well, take the "allegedly" out of the previous sentence, because she's pleaded guilty to theft and charitable fraud. At her sentencing next month, she faces fifteen years in stir....
The narrative section of the Ann Crall indictment is explicit about her health, stating that she "has never been diagnosed with cancer or received treatment for cancer." Nonetheless, she told her husband, Rich Crall, and others during the fall of 2005 that she had been diagnosed, and kept up this apparent ruse for the better part of five years.
Ann Crall's booking photos.
Why? "In reality," the indictment says, "Ann Crall did have an addiction to prescription drugs and her need to fund this problem may have been one of the reasons why Ann Crall failed to tell anyone that her claim to have cancer was false."
Crall didn't deem cops off-limits. The indictment notes that "members of the Lakewood Police Department as well as friends, neighbors, members of their church, parents of children who attended school with the Crall children and many others gave money, time, food, etc. to the Cralls in order to help the Cralls through the difficult time they were having with Ann Crall's cancer," which had allegedly reached stage IV.
To that end, various big-hearted folks staged fundraisers in 2006 and 2007 to defray medical costs supposedly not covered by insurance: a pig roast, a benefit poker night, and even gun cleanings, with the proceeds earmarked for the Cralls. Plus, the indictment maintains, "many employees from the Lakewood Police Department had money directly deposited into the Crall's account on an every other week basis."
According to the document, the contributions kept coming until January 2009, when the Cralls "received a payment from the Lakewood Police Employee Assistance Foundation based upon the belief that the Crall's were still having financial problems due to payments for Ann's 'cancer' treatments." But doubts had begun to surface. Around this period, Rich was asked to submit proof that Ann had cancer, and she responded with a letter supposedly from the Colorado Rocky Mountain Cancer Clinic that was believable enough to prompt another $2,000 payment. But this past March, the letter was identified as phony.
The LPD's Davis can't comment on the investigation itself, since it was conducted by the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office and the grand jury, not his department. As for the mood of the officers there, "it's not so much a feeling of anger, but one of disappointment," he says. "A lot of people feel very hurt that they donated their time and money for that cause, only to find out that it would appear there was no need for those donations."
In regard to Rich's future with the LPD, Davis says a decision is expected soon about either reinstating him or "starting an internal investigation with our internal affairs section, to see if administrative policies and procedures were violated in any way." Lakewood's chief of police and other senior staff will make the call on that.
In the meantime, plenty of officers -- presumably Rich Crall among them -- currently feel sicker than it's believed Ann Crall ever was.
Continue for more information, photos and videos about cancer fakers, including the arrest of Sandy Nguyen. "Briana Augustenborg: Will she face charges in bizarre "Alex Jordan" cancer hoax?"
Originally published November 6, 2012
In recent years, accused cancer fakers such as Tausha Marsh and Ann Crall have allegedly collected thousands by pretending to have a terminal illness. All of which makes the case of Briana Augustenborg that much more bizarre. She's said to have hyped up a case of leukemia for a nonexistent child -- but while she garnered plenty of attention, she wound up with no cash, suggesting that she may not have actually committed a crime.
According to the Eagle Valley Enterprise's Pam Boyd, Augustenborg, a 22-year-old Avon resident, told a co-worker who was friendly with the mother of an Eagle Valley High School football player about Alex Jordan, a nine-year-old boy suffering from terminal leukemia. The boy, with whom she claimed to be close, was a big football fan, she said, and followed the EVHS team closely.
Eagle Valley High School.
Augustenborg's friend offered to speak to the mom and get a signed football for little Alex. The request prompted outreach on the part of the players, who began posting good wishes on Facebook that only accelerated after Augustenborg told Alex's story on a local radio station and shared it with Boyd for a front-page story in the Enterprise.
Little Alex's most fervent desire was to attend the October 26 EVHS football game, Augustenborg said, and with that in mind, players and cheerleaders donned orange apparel in his honor, and the dance team spelled out "Alex" with their pompoms.
The boy didn't see this display, though, being imaginary and all. But Augustenborg explained his absence by announcing via Facebook that he'd died the day before the game.
Shortly thereafter, Augustenborg wrote an obituary for Alex that was published in the Vail Daily. The obit has now been removed, but a link lingers at Funeral.com. Here's a screen capture of what remains:
By the way, the photo reportedly pictures Connor Gerber, a South African cancer sufferer featured on a Kids Cancer Crusade website. He's still alive.
How did the scheme fall apart? Reports say some local residents began getting suspicious after the game. So they shared their concerns with law enforcement reps, who quickly determined that there was no death certificate for an Alex Jordan.
That doesn't mean Augustenborg was immediately fitted with a new set of bracelets and escorted to the hoosgow. As stressed by the Enterprise's Boyd, she never asked for money, insisting that Alex's parents were well-fixed; they just wanted to get his story out. For that reason, charges haven't been filed against her at this writing, and none may be.
Look below to see a 9News report on the controversy.
According to the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office, Sandy Nguyen, 28, convinced plenty of people that her six-year-old son had cancer -- not just members of the community, plus parents and children at Rolling Hills Elementary School, but also her family and the boy himself.
The scam allegedly got underway in September 2012, and over the course of the next year, Nguyen raised $25,000.
Over that period of time, the ACSO maintains that Nguyen accessed at least $16,000 worth of that bounty, using it for a family trip to Disneyland, among other things.
A shot of Rolling Hills Elementary School, from 7News coverage.
On March 7, questions from some of those who'd been so generous but had begun to question whether Sandy's son was actually sick (despite his intermittently shaved head), reached sheriff's office investigators. Within a week, they'd executed a search warrant at Nguyen's home and recovered approximately $23,000 in cash.
The ACSO says Nguyen acknowledged during interviews that her son doesn't have cancer, adding that donations made up part of the cash cache found at her home.
Nguyen was booked on suspicion of theft between $20,000 and $99,000 and criminal impersonation, and more charges could follow.
We feel confident in saying Nguyen won't be going to Disneyland again anytime soon.
Here's a larger look at Nguyen's booking photo and the aforementioned 7News report about her arrest.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Westword's biggest stories.