A woman who faked cancer to raise more than £45,000 in donations that she spent on holidays and football matches has been jailed.
Nicole Elkabbas set up a GoFundMe page claiming she had ovarian cancer but instead splurged the cash on restaurants and gambling, Canterbury Crown Court was previously told.
The 42-year-old, who was described by the prosecution as a “confidence trickster”, was found guilty by majority verdict of fraud by false representation and possession of criminal property in November.
On Wednesday, she was sentenced to two years and nine months behind bars.
Judge Mark Weekes said the ploy was “cunning and manipulative” and said she gave graphic accounts of her treatment to “keep those that you had ensnared in your web of lies believing”.
“All the while you were gambling, enjoying shopping trips and luxuries in Italy and Spain at their expense.”
He discussed the effect her plan had on NHS staff and resources that went to dealing with her, and while he acknowledged her previous good character he said only an immediate jail term could be justified.
Ben Irwin, prosecuting, told the trial that the online fundraiser said “Nicole needs our help” and described Elkabbas as a “beautiful daughter” who had recently been diagnosed.
Elkabbas, of Broadstairs, Kent, spoke about an ovarian cancer diagnosis, surgery and chemotherapy rounds – but the prosecution said they were “detailed lies”.
She raised in excess of £45,000 from more than 600 people, and Irwin said she had spent it on trips to Barcelona and Rome, football tickets and shopping excursions.
“She didn’t use that money for cancer treatment. The money she received was in fact for a variety of things – lots went on gambling, lots went on travel, lots went on Tottenham Hotspur tickets,” he added.
He accused her of devising “a scheme designed to trick and to con and she knew it”.
A photo showed her lying in a hospital bed under a blanket, with her eyes closed and mouth open, but it was actually from an operation to have her gallbladder removed, jurors were told.
A gynaecologist and former friend of the defendant’s, Nicholas Humphrey Morris, told the court he never diagnosed Elkabbas with cancer and became suspicious after seeing her GoFundMe.
He recognised the photo of her in hospital had come from her treatment at Spencer Hospital in Margate, Kent, two years prior because of the bedside wallpaper.
Elkabbas had never been a patient of his, he added.
Defending her, Oliver Kirk said she was a “vulnerable” woman with a genetic predisposition to ovarian cancer.
He said Elkabbas was told, and genuinely thought, she had cancer.
On Wednesday, he said: “It is quite clear, in my submission, that these offences were committed by a person who was in the grip of a gambling addition.
“Were it not for her gambling problem, her addiction, she would otherwise be leading a law-abiding life, and effectively her normal good nature became overwhelmed by her compulsion to gamble.”
Speaking about the Swansea East Labour MP, Judge Weekes said: “I am astonished to read from Mrs Carolyn Harris MP that she considers you were ‘honest about the crimes you had committed’.
He said he wondered if it was a “further instance of your playing with the truth” and manipulating people.
The MP told the PA news agency: “My comments were in connection with her addiction leading her to crime.
“Like so many who fall into the trap of addiction, they commit crimes out of desperation and whilst Nicole was wrong to commit the crime, she has been honest in her mitigation as to why she did so.”
A spokesperson for GoFundMe after the conviction in November: “All donations were refunded last year when the misuse allegations were raised.
“Misuse counts for less than one tenth of one per cent of all activity on GoFundMe and in the very rare case there is misuse – we refund donations. This means there is no risk whatsoever to donors.”
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