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Published: Friday, 2/28/2014 - Updated: 2 years ago

Authorities shut down high school cancer scam

Students took money for nonexistent patient


BOWLING GREEN — The request from several Elmwood High School students might have seemed kindhearted at first.

They told potential donors on whose doors they knocked that they were raising money for a cancer patient.

The not-so-nice twist: No such cancer victim exists.

The Wood County Sheriff’s Office, alerted this week to an alleged scam carried out by high school students, finished its investigation of the incident and turned the case over to the juvenile prosecutor for possible charges, Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn said.

Lt. Terry James said two or three students are suspected in the false fund-raising, which allegedly took place in multiple jurisdictions including Findlay and possibly Fostoria and North Baltimore. He would not identify the students, and said authorities believe they know of everyone involved in the activity.

“I’m pretty sure that we got to the bottom of it and got it stopped,” Lieutenant James said.

Timothy Atkins of the Wood County Prosecutor’s Office’s juvenile division could not be reached for comment.

On Monday, a Findlay woman called Elmwood Local Schools in Bloomdale to ask about a donation request.

“She had given a small amount of money; her gut told her this wasn’t right,” Superintendent Tony Borton said.

The district checked out the cancer story and found no one sick.

The students allegedly spun several versions of the cancer story to would-be contributors, including changing the identity of the fake patient, he said.

Findlay police described one incident in which the students introduced themselves as Elmwood High School athletes and claimed to be collecting money for a teacher who was dying, according to a post on the department’s Facebook page.

In recent days, school officials heard from other residents who reported students stopped at their houses too. At least one person indicated the students wore letter jackets, and Mr. Borton said the students are connected to Elmwood’s wrestling team.

Authorities wouldn’t say how many victims gave students money, how much money they collected, or what they did with the funds.

Students believed to be involved still are attending classes, and the district is waiting on possible criminal charges before determining school discipline.

“We do not tolerate or accept these behaviors,” Mr. Borton said.

The incident prompted a review of how the district runs its fund-raisers. Elmwood students participating in legitimate fund-raisers now will have a form signed by a principal to show donors.

Contact Vanessa McCray at: vmccray@theblade.com or 419-724-6065, or on Twitter @vanmccray.

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