Donations totalling more than £50,000 were made to a Thanet woman who lied about having cancer.
Nicole Elkabbas, 42, from Broadstairs, claimed to need money for hospital treatment but instead used it to fund an online gambling addiction.
Her offences came to light when a photo she uploaded onto a fundraising website of herself in a hospital bed was proven to have been taken months earlier for an unrelated illness.
Elkabbas was found guilty of fraud and possession of criminal property following a trial at Canterbury Crown Court, and on Wednesday 10 February 2021 was jailed for two years and nine months.
A photo of her in a hospital bed was posted alongside the plea for donations, which was identified as having been taken at an NHS site in Kent. Her claims were then investigated by the NHS’ counter-fraud team, who raised concerns that Elkabbas had been lying about her health and reported this to police.
Subsequent enquiries by the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate established that Elkabbas had gambled away more than £8,000 of the money that was donated to her, and spent a further £14,000 on a suspected gambling debt. She also spent more than £6,000 on travel-related expenditure and bought Premier League season tickets worth a total of £3,748.
Detectives also discovered that the doctors she claimed had treated her for cancer either did not exist or had no record of her on their books.
Elkabbas was arrested at her home address on Friday 10 August 2018 and continued to claim she had cancer, although later admitted she had spent some of the donations she had received on gambling. At no point did she provide officers with evidence of her diagnosis and NHS doctors stated during her trial that they had not received any medical evidence either.
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Fraud investigator Oscar Riba Domingo of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate said: ‘Nicole Elkabbas is a compulsive liar who took advantage of the charitable spirit of hundreds of people so she could feed her destructive gambling addiction, attend Premier League football matches and enjoy other people’s hard-earned money. ‘Cancer is a terrible illness that claims countless lives across the world every day, so for Elkabbas to lie about needing treatment for it is beyond disgraceful. ‘There is absolutely no excuse for her actions and she is deserving of the prison sentence she will now have to serve.’