Utah woman accused of receiving thousands in donations by lying about cancer diagnosis

The woman has also been accused of lying about her history as a victim of sex trafficking

Graig Graziosi
Monday 21 February 2022 23:12 GMT
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A human rights advocate in Utah was arrested for allegedly faking her cancer diagnosis and raising thousands of dollars based for medical expenses.

Coco Berthmann, 28, a German national living in Utah, was detained on Wednesday and booked into the Salt Lake County jail. The New York Post reports that she is being investigated for communications fraud, according to a police report, but has not been formally charged.

Ms Bethmann is an advocate against human trafficking and claims she was a victim of it herself.

A neighbour told police that she had been lying about her cancer diagnosis and raking in money from online fundraisers based on the alleged lie.

A complaint given to the police, which was reported by KSL, claims that the woman is a "habitual liar”.

The report claims that the woman’s falsehoods include claims that her "mother was sending people to the United States to kill her, she had had a stage 4 cancer which was miraculously cured, and she had been raped on many occasions”.

Ms Berthmann claims that her family trafficked her for years, and that she eventually escaped. Those claims are also being questioned amid the cancer revelations.

Police said they were unable to verify that Ms Berthmann was actually a victim of child sex trafficking, or her claims that she worked with the FBI or David County Attorney's Office as a witness.

She used her platform to establish the Coco Berthmann Scholarship Fund to combat human trafficking and has been booked as a speaker at anti-human trafficking conferences.

Ms Berthmann was allegedly telling people that she was suffering from "stage 3 mantle cell lymphoma cancer in order to obtain funds for treatment”.

A GoFundMe campaign was started for Ms Berthmann by a friend. It raised more than $10,000 to "Help Coco Fight Cancer”. The page has since been removed, but it claimed she was suffering from "aggressive cancer" with only a 30 per cent chance of survival.

It does not appear the friend was aware of the alleged lie when they made the fundraising page.

The friend told police that Ms Berthmann had provided medical records relating to her cancer diagnosis, and that she had "expressed financial concerns to the creator of the account due to the treatments being expensive”.

When the police asked Ms Berthmann to meet with them to discuss the claims against her, she claimed she was too weak to appear due to her illness. She also was unable to provide proof of her diagnosis, and police were unable to verify that she had been treated in Alaska and Chicago as she claims.

One of the doctors Ms Berthmann said she was seeing is actually a specialist in PTSD patients. She was reportedly seeing that doctor for anxiety issues.

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