A 31-year-old Nevada woman is accused of faking her 10-year-old son's terminal illness and his death so she could get gifts and money from sympathisers. Prosecutors said Victoria Morrison also lied to her son and hold him he was dying from leukaemia.
Authorities said Morrison spent months lying about the boy's condition and his death, going as far as holding a fake memorial service. The woman collected gifts and money, including a shopping spree with emergency responders in Carson City, a helicopter ride for her son, and gift cards, according to a criminal complaint filed Wednesday (19 April).
According to The Associated Press, Carson City Sheriff Kenny Furlong alleged Morrison also raised around $2,000 (£1,562) on GoFundMe. In a post that has since been taken down, Morrison wrote that her "world fell apart" when she learned "my baby" had leukaemia.
Morrison's son "made a list of things he wants to do before he gets (too) sick, now it's my job to help him do just that," she wrote. "But I'm a single mom to three other kids and work. So please if you have a spare dollar help me help my son wishes and dreams come true."
Furlong said that Morrison kept the alleged scam going for months as she "informed everyone, primarily though social media, that her son had died and his body had been cremated".
Morrison's son was diagnosed with a treatable childhood illness over a year ago, Furlong said. "But she used embellished medical information to convince the child, the schools and the public that he was terminally ill." The sheriff said the child missed months of school.
The mother-of-four held a fake memorial service earlier this month, Furlong said.
CBS affiliate KTVN-TV reported a deputy contacted the boy after a property manager reported seeing him. The boy told the deputy that his mother and her boyfriend planned to take him on a weekend hunting trip.
Furlong said Morrison was initially charged with felony fraud charges for obtaining money by false pretences, following her arrest at a motel last Friday (14 April). Morrison's son and three other children were placed in state protective services' custody.
Child abuse charges
Carson City Assistant District Attorney Melanie Brantingham said in an interview that Morrison faces another charge of child abuse after it was learned that she told her son he was dying of leukaemia.
Furlong said investigators do not have other suspects but are looking to see if other people were involved or knew that the boy was actually alive while his mother claimed he was dead. "It's hard to comprehend that she could do this by herself and that no one in her inner circle knew about it," he said on Tuesday (18 April), according to the Reno Gazette-Journal.
Morrison was banned from GoFundMe and contributions made on the boy's behalf will be refunded to donors, spokeswoman Katherine Cichy said.
Morrison was taken into custody after failing to come up with the $20,000 bail. According to AP, a state-appointed lawyer was assigned to represent her. She faces up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine if convicted of both charges.