Juanita Lea Waltz, of Manassas, allegedly raised thousands of dollars from neighbors by wrongly telling them she had cancer, police said yesterday after arresting her on a felony charge of larceny by false pretenses.
One donor, according to Manassas police Officer Cindy Mullins, said Waltz told her she needed injections of an experimental anti-cancer drug with a hefty tab of $35,000 a shot, and that she feared her husband's insurance wouldn't cover the bills.
A women's auxiliary chipped in $1,200, Mullins said. Parents at a preschool donated $275, and a Manassas elementary school raised more than $3,000 for Waltz.
The gift-giving might have continued if one of Waltz's benefactors had not begun to doubt her story, investigators said. Police allege Waltz was not ill. Her medical records show there were no treatments, no injections, no cancer, they said.
Waltz, 38, who was released on her own recognizance, is scheduled for a hearing Monday. She could not be reached for comment yesterday. Larceny charges for amounts of more than $200 carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison upon conviction.
"It is an annoying case because she apparently would tell people specifically about the time of treatment and injections she was getting and treatment she was undergoing," said Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney John Notarianni. "It speaks well for the community that they were moved by what they thought was her misfortune."
Mullins, the police officer investigating the case, said some donors filed a complaint against Waltz in July. "She had complained that she was having medical bills and her husband's insurance might not cover it, but they thought she might not tell them the whole amount" because of pride, the officer said. "So they called the doctor to find out how much the total was so they could pay it off, and that's when they found out nothing was wrong."
Mullins said donors told police that Waltz had claimed she contracted cancer after a hysterectomy. One donor told authorities that Waltz said that her eyebrows had fallen out as a result of her treatment, the officer said.
Waltz was a volunteer at Weems Elementary School, where money was raised, Mullins said, and was a member of the PTA. She also worked as a teacher at Little Elves preschool, where some people also donated money. A woman identified only as the director of Little Elves would not comment on the case. Weems officials referred calls to Manassas School Superintendent James Upperman.
Upperman said the school as a whole did not raise money. He said he had no knowledge that $3,000 had been raised. "Some of the individuals at the school may have made a decision to help a person in need, but the . . . school was not involved," Upperman said.
Manassas police said they did not believe that Waltz had asked for money, but once people started making donations, she accepted. The family was experiencing financial difficulties, Mullins said.
Some donors who have talked to police and prosecutors feel betrayed, said Mullins. "One woman said before they donate money again, they will make sure it is a legitimate cause," she said.
Staff writer Claudia Sandlin contributed to this report.