At 18, Ruth Angelica Gomez has already come up with a way to make thousands of dollars and succeeded where many people twice her age have failed. that It's too bad that her plan was illegal and utterly dispicable. Much like the people who use fake breast cancer charities as a front to make themselves richer, Gomez allegedly collected $17,000 in donations after lying about suffering from leukemia. She made one huge mistake: Nine months ago, she announced she'd be dead in six months, and yet she's still here.
The Associated Press reports that today police charged Gomez with theft by deception for collecting donations under false pretenses. The scope of her alleged lies is shocking. Police starting investigating her in June when someone complained that she didn't appear to be sick. Now a police spokeswoman says, "We haven't found anything that indicates that she does have leukemia."
Gomez graduated from high school in Horizon City, Texas in June. In 2010, Gomez told her church that the cancer she battled for 11 years of her childhood was back and even worse than before. In an interveiw with the El Paso Times in March, she said that she'd practically lived at the Children's Merchy Hospital in Kansas City during her early years, and had also been treated at St. Jude's Children's hospital. Police say that there's no record of her ever being admitted to these hospitals.
Shortly after declaring her leukemia was back, she told Nicole Matsuda, a youth leader at First Methodist Church, that her parents had kicked her out. Matsuda said she could stay with her family for a few weeks, but that turned into six months. "Now I hear that she told her parents that one of my children was sick and that I needed her to come help me," says Matsuda. She believed Gomez could be ill because she was pale and thin and, "She would be weak, always sleeping." Occasionally Gomez would have people drive her to a nearby hospital for treatment, but she would always tell them not to wait for her because she didn't want to impose.
In the spring Gomez founded an organization called Achieve the Dream Foundation and started collecting money to help children with cancer. Gomez gave motivational speeches and students at a nearby high school threw a prom party/fundraiser for her after she said she missed her senior prom because she was receiving treatment. In a photo on the organization's website, Gomez wears a shirt featuring the organization's logo and a the line, "Behind every fighter there is a supporter. Will you be mine?"
Gomez's fiance, Freddy Alcantar, says he believed she was sick and would see her take medication, but didn't like to discuss the details of her treatment. She didn't have much contact with her parents, and Detective Jonathan Walden says they, "had seen the articles and they were trying to get her to correct them. But we don't know what she was telling them." In June Gomez called Alcantar to say she was leaving and she hasn't been seen since.
It's incredible that Gomez was able to pull off the scam for as long as she did, and it seems part of the reason is that no wants to think that there are people who would exploit other's sympathies like this. Matsuda says that even though her story didn't make sense, "you almost felt guilty if you had a suspicion: How can you question someone who is dying?"
Earlier: The Breast Cancer Charity Scam