Former NKU student pleads guilty in cancer scam

Published: Oct. 4, 2017 at 6:17 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 4, 2017 at 6:25 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Kelly Schmahl, a former Northern Kentucky student accused of collecting money and faking cancer, has pleaded guilty to theft by deception.

Classmates and sorority sisters rallied around Schmahl in her battle against stage 3 gastrointestinal cancer, but she was never sick. Events were being promoted for the 20-year-old, who claimed 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 alleged she fooled people out of thousands of dollars. The warrant reads Schmahl deceived her roommate and caregiver into believing she was sick. The warrant said her caregiver and others provided her with at least $7,500 dollars to help with her illness.

"I was struggling a lot mentally... psychologically at the time. And I created cancer as a way to kind to defend why I was depressed and so sad," she said.

Schmahl said she stopped seeing her therapist when she was 16. When asked if she was sorry for stealing the money, she didn't respond, but her attorney did saying it's a matter she regrets.

"It's something that's way out their normal experience and something that she never engaged in before. There's true remorse and regret," Tim Schneider said.

She no longer attends Northern Kentucky University.

In a plea deal this week, she pleaded guilty to theft by deception. Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 4. She's expected to be placed into a diversion program (rehabilitation program).

Earlier this year, 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."

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