An outpouring of help for a little boy — whom supporters believed was terminally ill and seeking medical care in Augusta — has turned into a fraud investigation.
An Oglethorpe County mother told friends, relatives and others that her son had encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain that can cause death. But now, it appears she invented the disease, said Oglethorpe County Sheriff Mike Smith.
Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents will handle the case because the boy’s mother is a former sheriff’s office employee, Smith said. She resigned from her detention officer post more than a year ago.
The woman told people that the 7-year-old boy had a serious illness, and asked for money so the family could travel to the beach, according to a Facebook page that gave status updates on the child’s supposed visits to doctors in Augusta. Someone recently deleted the page.
Two weeks ago, the child’s father filed a report at the sheriff’s office claiming that his son is healthy, Smith said.
“There was actually an incident report filed by her (ex) husband that there was nothing wrong with the child,” Smith said.
Although the woman has not yet been charged, it’s likely that her deception — which included building a Facebook page and opening accounts at three different banks to collect money — will lead to criminal charges, he said.
“I suspect warrants will come out for her arrest,” Smith said.
Deputies have seized some of the donations and will turn the money over to the GBI, Smith said.
“I would recommend that anybody that gave money should come down and file a report (at the sheriff’s office),” he said.
Donors can file a report to document that they gave money to the fund, but there’s no guarantee that anyone will get money back, he said.
The Winterville Civitan Club gave money to the little boy they believed to be sick.
The Winterville Civitans regularly give money to groups and individuals who need assistance, said club President Tom Doonan.
“I’m glad, and I think all of us are glad that he’s not as sick as was reported,” Doonan said. “I was disappointed in the fact that this all transpired — the whole situation.”
Though he’s disappointed that the mother lied to the community, the deception likely won’t stop the Winterville Civitans from giving donations, he said.
“If it was reported next week that a little boy was sick, I think that we would look at it and I would hope that we would do the same thing,” Doonan said.