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Fmr College Student Made Up Cancer Story, Duped Classmates into Donations, Police Say

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A former student at Northern Kentucky University captured the hearts — and wallets — of her classmates when she told them she had stage 3 gastrointestinal cancer and needed help paying for medical treatment. Now police say that Kelly Schmahl, 20, was faking it and collecting the cash.

Local authorities believe that Schmahl conducted the scam from June 2016 until March 2017, with a planned fundraiser to take place in April. A search warrant affidavit states that she had people, including her roommate and caregiver, believing she was sick, and used that to get $7,500 in donations.

Even Shmahl’s parents say they were fooled. In a statement to FOX19, they said:

Our daughter is a caring, loving yet troubled young woman who is currently undergoing treatment for issues that precipitated this pretense and the results of it.

Like others in the community, we, too, believed our daughter was seriously ill with cancer and we are all searching for answers as to why she would participate in this deception. During the time that funds were being raised for Kelly, she did not live with us and we did not actively promote any fundraising efforts.

A charity golf outing was already in the works when the alleged scheme came to light. The event, Kelly’s Klassic, was organized by the Delta Zeta sorority. Schmahl wrote in the event’s promotion:

I have never been one to ask for much, especially when it comes to money and material things, but when I was diagnosed last September, financial support from those around me has become pivotal in my battle.

Delta Zeta says the event will still take place, with money going to Chicks and Chucks, a local charity that provides resources for breast cancer patients. In a statement, the sorority said, “It has recently come to our attention that DZ is the unknowing victim of a crime.  Delta Zeta, nor its members, had any knowledge of whatever activities Ms. Schmahl may have been involved in.”

Schmahl could reportedly be charged with grand theft or theft by deception, and could face up to 10 years in prison.

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