Police investigating after NKU student accused of faking cancer

Published: Apr. 5, 2017 at 1:20 AM EDT|Updated: Apr. 18, 2017 at 9:54 PM EDT
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(FOX19) - Classmates and sorority sisters rallied around a former Northern Kentucky student in her battle against stage 3 gastrointestinal cancer, but police now believe she never had cancer.

Events were being promoted for 20-year-old Kelly Schmahl, who said she was very ill.

Kelly's Klassic was put together to help raise money for medical bills.

To promote the event Schmahl wrote, "I have never been one to ask for much, especially when it comes to money and material things, but when I was diagnosed last September, financial support from those around me has become pivotal in my battle".

According to an affidavit search warrant, police allege she fooled people out of thousands of dollars. The warrant reads Schmahl deceived her roommate and caregiver into believing she had cancer.

Police said this went on from June of 2016 through March 2017.

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The warrant said her caregiver and others provided her with at least $7,500 dollars to help with her illness.

Police then issued a warrant for her cell phone. They said she used her cell phone as a forwarding service to receive and answer phone calls and text messages under the guise that healthcare workers were answering.

"It's unbelievable to think that someone could plan that," cancer survivor Traci Clancy said.

Northern Kentucky University sororities like Delta Zeta posted and hosted events, trying to help the student they thought had cancer.

Delta Zeta released the following statement:

"Delta Zeta has been committed to community service since its founding in 1972. In furtherance of this commitment, Delta Zeta planned a charity event for April 22. It has recently come to our attention that DZ is the unknowing victim of a crime.  Delta Zeta, nor its members, had any knowledge of whatever activities Ms. Schmahl may have been involved in.  

Delta Zeta's planned charity event will continue on April 22 and proudly supports Chicks and Chucks, a local, 501 (c) 3 charity which serves as a resource for breast cancer patients who require products and services in their battle against cancer. All funds raised will be donated only to Chicks and Chucks. 

Nationally, Delta Zeta has supported speech and hearing as its national philanthropy since 1954 and gives graciously to our communities in service and around the world as global citizens.

Because there is an ongoing criminal investigation which Delta Zeta is cooperating with and does not want to interfere with, we are unable to comment further."

Clancy believes stories like this hurt fundraising for people who really need it.

"She ruins it for other people who now will be skeptical of people being generous," she said.

Schmahl's parents released the following statement to FOX19 NOW:

"Our daughter is a caring, loving yet troubled young woman who is currently undergoing treatment for issues that precipitated this pretense and the results of it.

Like others in the community, we, too, believed our daughter was seriously ill with cancer and we are all searching for answers as to why she would participate in this deception. During the time that funds were being raised for Kelly, she did not live with us and we did not actively promote any fundraising efforts. 

Our family, friends, and the good people of this community who generously gave time and money to this cause are anxious to learn what happened to the money that was raised for Kelly. We do not know the answer to this question because we have never had access to these funds. However, we are cooperating with law-enforcement officials and we are hopeful they can help answer this question.

At this point, our main concern is with our daughter, who thankfully is away from this situation and getting the help she needs."

Schmahl no longer attends Northern Kentucky University.

Delta Zeta said it will go ahead with one of the planned fundraisers for Schmahl on the April 22, but the money raised will go to Chicks and Chucks, a charity that helps breast cancer patients.

Schmahl is looking at grand theft charges or theft by deception.

If convicted, she could face anywhere from one to 10 years in prison.

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