A woman from Broadstairs in Kent has been jailed for two years and nine months at Canterbury Crown Court after scamming well-wishers out of over £45,000 by fraudulently claiming she had cancer.
42-year-old Nicole Elkabbas, of Edge End Road, claimed she needed the money for hospital treatment but instead used it to fund an online gambling addiction.
Her offences only came to light when the photo she used on a fundraising site was proved to have been taken months earlier for an unrelated illness.
The photo was identified as being taken at an NHS site in Kent. Her claims were then investigated by the NHS’ counter-fraud team, who raised concerns that Elkabbas had been lying about her health and reported this to police.
Subsequent enquiries by the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate gained an insight into what the donations were being spent on:
The jury heard how between February and August 2018, Elkabbas elicited money from over 700 donors via a fundraising website and direct bank transfers.
This was after claiming she had been diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer that required her to travel to Spain for surgery.
Detectives also discovered that the doctors she claimed had treated her for cancer either did not exist or had no record of her on their books.
Elkabbas was arrested at her home address on Friday 10 August 2018 and continued to claim she had cancer, although later admitted she had spent some of the donations she had received on gambling.
At no point did she provide police with evidence of her diagnosis and NHS doctors stated during her trial that they had not received any medical evidence either.
Fraud investigator Oscar Riba Domingo of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate said: "Cancer is a terrible illness that claims countless lives across the world every day, so for Elkabbas to lie about needing treatment for it is beyond disgraceful".
At the sentencing hearing, defence lawyers claimed that Elkabbas would have led a "law abiding life" however her normal good nature was overwhelmed by her "compulsion to gamble".
They went on to say Elkabbas is a "vulnerable" woman who has a genetic predisposition to ovarian cancer and has had cancer in her family.
However, prosecution lawyers labelled Elkabbas a "confidence trickster" who used emotive language to pull on the heartstrings of the public.
Upon sentencing, Judge Mark Weekes said the deception was "cunning and manipulative". He mentioned those who she'd conned: "All the while you were gambling, enjoying shopping trips and luxuries in Italy and Spain at their expense."
He acknowledged her previous good character and the impact that jailing her would have on others, but said that only immediate custody could be justified.