LOCAL NEWS

Utah woman charged after raising thousands for fake cancer diagnosis

May 11, 2022, 4:43 PM | Updated: May 12, 2022, 7:10 pm
(Deseret News)...
(Deseret News)
(Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah woman and well-known human rights advocate has been charged after raising thousands of dollars for a fake cancer diagnosis.

Coco Berthmann, 28, is charged with communications fraud, a second-degree felony.

She has been publicly speaking about her experience as a sex trafficking survivor of 15 years at the hands of her parents in Germany.

However, police began to investigate Berthmann when they received a tip that “(Berthmann) was falsely stating she had stage three Mantle Cell Lymphoma cancer in order to obtain funds for treatment.”

According to previous court documents, the complaint alleged that Berthmann has been a habitual liar throughout the years, “claiming Coco’s mother was sending people to the United States to kill her, she had had a stage 4 cancer which was miraculously cured, and she had been raped on many occasions.”

Police investigated and found a GoFundMe account that raised close to $10,000 titled, “Help Coco Fight Cancer,” created by one of Berthmann’s friends.

When police contacted the friend who created the GoFundMe, she explained Berthmann had approached her and said she had been diagnosed with Mantle Cell Lymphoma approximately Jan. 31, 2022. Berthmann had even showed blood work medical documents and expressed her worry about finances. While Berthmann did not ask her directly to create a GoFundMe, she had expressed what a financial burden the treatments were.

When a detective attempted to meet with Berthmann court documents state that she “declined to meet in person due to scheduled medical treatments.” Berthman told Detective Barraza she had been treated at the Huntsman Cancer Institute but was now being treated by doctors in Alaska and Chicago. She claimed she left the Hunstman Cancer Institute due to “her rare Mantle Cell Lymphoma and was seeking alternative medical treatments.” She agreed to send all medical records.

Berthmann never sent any medical records to substantiate her claims.

Police wrote a warrant for medical records through the Huntsman Cancer Institute and a DOPL warrant for any cancer medications that might have been prescribed. When both warrants were approved, documents from the Huntsman Cancer Institute stated Berthmann was never a patient.

Berthmann’s claims of seeing doctors in both Alaska and Chicago both ended up being false when investigated by police. When contacted, the doctor Berthmann referenced in Alaska said Berthmann had never been a patient. Police contacted the doctor Berthmann referenced in Chicago, who confirmed they had not treated her for cancer or diagnosed her at any point.

Detective Barraza found a link to the GoFundMe page on Berthmann’s profile next to a bio that stated, “Currently fighting Stage 3 Cancer.”

Police subpoenaed GoFundMe and found almost just under $10,000 were received with Berthmann as the beneficiary. Her records indicate she had made several withdrawals throughout February and police verified none of that money had been used for any type of medical treatment.

Berthmann was booked into Salt Lake County Jail Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022 when police confronted her about the discrepancies in her story stating, “the doctors she stated she was working with were contacted and they had never heard of her.”

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Utah woman charged after raising thousands for fake cancer diagnosis