Mindy Taylor’s tale of woe was compelling enough to make people open their wallets. The problem, authorities say, was that it wasn’t true.
She claimed three illnesses: heart disease, lupus and cancer of the small intestine, according to news reports. She started a blog this year to detail her day-to-day struggles with chemotherapy.
She gained a group of supporters on social media called “Mindy’s Army” as well as contributors on donation-driven Web sites such as Caring Bridge and YouCaring, through which she raised thousands of dollars, police said.
In February, the local paper, the Chillicothe Gazette, ran a front-page tear-jerker on her plight. It starts:
Mindy Taylor has amassed an army of supporters, which is good considering she’s fighting not one, not two, but three serious health problems all at the same time. … Even though she has health insurance, the confluence of diseases and the cost of treating and managing them is starting to put her family in a bind financially.
That’s when the real story came out.
A doubter who read the article called the cops, who subpoenaed medical records and allegedly found that she was lying and that the fund-raising, which netted some $21,000, was a scam.
Taylor of Chillicothe, Ohio, is now charged with felony theft, the Columbus Dispatch reported this week.
The woman wrote the blog posts on her YouCaring Web site, police said, and her husband, friends and neighbors believed she was sick as well. Strangers bought wristband branded with her name.
Her YouCaring site, entitled “Mindy’s Army: No One Fights Alone,” shows $1,300 (out of $30,000) was raised.
Her Caring Bridge page, which police said she ran, contains a collection of posts beginning in January:
Jan 31: “I have been diagnosed for awhile now but today is the day that it really became public.”
Feb. 16: “#mindysarmy isn’t just about me. It’s about anyone that is fighting with an illness or cancer or a hard time so try to remember that as you look down and see your wrist. Stay positive and always try to do the next right thing!”
Feb. 24: “Sleep eludes me yet again. I want to thank everyone for the kind words and the Chillicothe Gazette for making my story public to help others in the same boat.”
Taylor’s attorney, Jeff Benson, told the Dispatch that his client actually is sick. She left her job with the Chillicothe City Schools in 2012 and she receives Social Security disability, the newspaper reported. The nature of the illness, however, is still unclear.
Taylor has applied to the Ross County Common Pleas Court diversion program and, if she meets the criteria and follows instructions, the felony charge will be dismissed, the Dispatch reported. Namely, she would have to return the money to the donors, which, Benson said, she has already done for the most part. He said most of the money was never even spent.