Florida couple accused of telling boy he had terminal brain cancer to raise money for themselves
7:52 AM, Feb 6, 2018
7:58 AM, Feb 6, 2018
OKALOOSA COUNTY, Fla. — A Florida couple have been accused of convincing a 13-year-old boy that he had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in order to raise money for themselves.
Ginny Irovando Long, 34, and Robert Edward Long, 47, were taken into custody by the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office on Thursday and charged with one count of child abuse and nine counts of fraud, according to a statement from the sheriff's office.
"The 13-year-old has spent the last eight months believing he is going to die from brain cancer," the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office said in a Facebook post about the case.
Because of Florida state law, the 13-year-old victim will not be publicly identified by law enforcement and neither will his relationship to the couple. Irovando Long's Facebook page indicates she is the boy's mother, however.
The first report of possible wrongdoing came in November, according to the arrest report from the sheriff's office. That's when a school resource officer called the sheriff's office about what he believed to be possible exploitation after Irovando Long had arranged a fundraiser selling T-shirts in support of the victim's battle with cancer, the arrest report states.
An investigator then reached out to Irovando Long, who said that a doctor had told her that the 13-year-old had seven brain tumors, according to the arrest report.
Irovando Long told the sheriff's office investigator that she had been told that "if the victim were to receive surgery then he would turn out to be a 'vegetable' so she opted out of the victim having surgery," the arrest report states.
The teen boy repeatedly told people at school, including teachers and the school nurse, that he had cancer and that he was told he "was not going to live very long," the arrest report states.
When the boy spoke to the investigator in December, he said that he had cancer but did not like to talk about it.
"The victim then put his head down and state[d] it did make him scared sometimes," according to the arrest report.
No medical paperwork has been found suggesting that the boy ever had cancer.
The couple reportedly sold nine T-shirts as part of the fundraiser, which the arrest report totaled as $140, which was the source of their misdemeanor charge of fraud. A spokesperson for the sheriff's office said that a GoFundMe fundraiser and other alleged fundraisers elsewhere were not included in their charges.
Local ABC affiliate WEAR reported that the GoFundMe page for the boy had accumulated almost $1,000 in donations.
A spokesperson for the Department of Children and Families told WEAR that the 13-year-old boy and his sibling have been taken into the agency's custody and are in foster care pending the investigation.
GoFundMe spokesperson Bobby Whithorne shared a statement with ABC News, saying that the company "has taken action, banned the individuals, and is proactively refunding the donors."
"Campaigns with misuse make up less than one-tenth of 1 percent of all campaigns. With that said, there are instances where individuals fabricated a diagnosis and committed fraud," the statement reads.