Sandy Nguyen was sentenced Tuesday to 90 days in jail, five years probation, and 125 hours of community service for admitting to having collected tens of thousands of dollars after convincing friends, family, and her own son that he was dying of leukemia. Nguyen would apparently shave her son Jaiden's head every day before school to keep up the ruse.
According to the Arapahoe County District Attorney's office, Nguyen, 29, first started telling her family and others that her six-year-old son Jaiden had been undergoing cancer treatments since September 2012. Nguyen's scheme was finally discovered after a doctor at Children's Hospital of Denver heard about the story and checked her claims against medical records that didn't exist. From CBS Denver:
Various community and school fundraisers raised some $25,000 for the family, and police say Nguyen took at least $16,000 of that money to pay for a trip to Disneyland with her family. Investigators said some of the money raised during the scheme was found in the family's home.
At the sentencing hearing Nguyen's defense said the scam began after Nguyen's son was diagnosed with a skin condition and that she did not set out to deceive people. But she failed to stop the situation when donations started pouring in.
KUSA reports that students at Jaiden's school, Rolling Hills Elementary, gave up their allowance money for his cause, and asked their grandparents for donations, too. When investigators questioned Jaiden, he told them "he believed he had cancer and was going to die."
Nguyen's lawyer argued in court that while the mother did nothing to stop the lie from spreading, "none of this happened for personal gain." "Every single penny" was apparently kept in Nguyen's home because she "didn't know what to do with it."
"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," Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler said in a statement.
The mother was apparently pregnant at the time of her arrest by police, and her children, including Jaiden, are currently in the custody of their father. Nguyen pleaded guilty to to one count of charitable fraud and one count of child abuse. She will serve her 90-day jail sentence on work release, working during the day and sleeping in jail at night.
[Image via Arapahoe County Sheriff's Department]