A woman who faked having cancer and raked in more than £45,000 in donations from well-wishers has been jailed.
Nicole Elkabbas conned kind-hearted members of the public out of thousands using a convincing GoFundMe page and even a picture of her lying in a hospital bed.
She splurged the money on trips to Barcelona and Rome, gambling, and a box at Tottenham Hotspur football club.
During her scheme she spoke about her ovarian cancer diagnosis, subsequent surgery and round after round of gruelling chemotherapy in what prosecutors said were “detailed lies”.
The 42-year-old, of Edge End Road in Broadstairs, Kent, appeared at Canterbury Crown Court on Wednesday, where she was jailed for two years and nine months.
She was found guilty by majority verdicts last November of fraud by false representation and possession of criminal property.
Elkabbas had denied the offences and her defence had argued that she believed she had cancer.
Her trial heard that the GoFundMe page garnered more than £45,000 in donations from more than 600 people.
Prosecutor Ben Irwin told the court that Elkabbas was a “confidence trickster” who made claims she knew were untrue.
“Clear emotive language, playing on the fears of the public, pulling on people’s heartstrings and then saying that there was an opportunity to be saved,” he added.
At her trial he described her actions as “utterly dishonest”.
“It was a scheme designed to trick and to con, and she knew it. So she lied about the major surgery, lied about six cycles of chemotherapy, lied about this wonder-drug – the breakthrough drug.”
Sentencing Elkabbas, Judge Mark Weekes said the deception was “cunning and manipulative”.
He told her: “You produced details and at times graphic accounts of the treatments you were receiving in an effort to keep those that you had ensnared in your web of lies believing.
“All the while you were gambling, enjoying shopping trips and luxuries in Italy and Spain at their expense.
“I am astonished to read from Mrs Carolyn Harris MP that she considers you were ‘honest about the crimes you had committed’.
He added that he “cannot help but wonder” if this was a “further instance of your playing with the truth” and manipulating others.
Judge Weekes also spoke of the effect her lies had had on NHS staff and the resources that went into dealing with her.
He acknowledged her previous good character and the impact that jailing her would have on others, but said that only immediate custody could be justified.
Oliver Kirk, Elkabbas’s defence barrister, said: “It is quite clear, in my submission, that these offences were committed by a person who was in the grip of a gambling addition.
“Were it not for her gambling problem, her addiction, she would otherwise be leading a law-abiding life, and effectively her normal good nature became overwhelmed by her compulsion to gamble.”
He cited poor conditions in prisons due to the pandemic and called for the judge to consider the impact were she to be sent to jail.
Mr Kirk told the trial that Elkabbas is a “vulnerable” woman who has a genetic predisposition to ovarian cancer and has had cancer in her family.
Following the hearing, a spokesperson for GoFundMe said: “All donations were refunded in 2019 when the misuse allegations were raised
“Misuse counts for less than one 10th of 1% of all activity on GoFundMe and in the very rare case there is misuse, we refund donations.
“This means there is no risk whatsoever to donors.
“We’re proud to have the world’s only crowdfunding guarantee, where your money gets where it is supposed to go – or we will reimburse you.”
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