A suburban Denver woman who collected thousands of dollars in donations by convincing friends, family and her 6-year-old son that he had cancer was sentenced to 90 days in jail, five years of probation and community service on Tuesday. Sandy Nguyen, 29, will spend her 3-month jail sentence in work release, which means she will work during the day and sleep in jail, according to a statement from the Arapahoe County District Attorney's office. Nguyen pleaded guilty to one count each of charitable fraud and child abuse in September after the scam was discovered, Jon Sarché, a spokesman for the Colorado Judicial Department, told NBC News.
Investigators said family, friends, the community and the 6-year-old's school started collecting donations for the boy in September 2013. More than $22,000 and a free trip to Disney World was donated to the family, according to Michelle Yi, a spokeswoman for the Arapahoe district attorney. Nguyen told investigators she did not ask for any help. But she didn't turn it away either — and she didn't think her son was old enough to figure out what was going on, according to NBC affiliate KUSA. The young boy told police he thought he was going to die and recounted that his mother shaved his head every day before school, Yi said.
A doctor at Children's Hospital of Denver's oncology unit wised up to Nguyen's scheme when he learned about the case but didn't recognize the boy's name. The Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office launched an investigation that found the Nguyen family did not have any medical bills for the young boy. "While other parents convince their children to dream of a great and limitless future, Sandy Nguyen convinced her son that death hovered over him and that his life was in jeopardy," District Attorney George Brauchler said in a statement, adding that her actions were "unjustifiable." A future hearing will determine whether Nguyen will be able to maintain custody of the 6-year-old and her two other children, according to KUSA.
— Elisha Fieldstadt