Watch CBSN Live

Mom Uses 12 Yr. Old Son in Alleged Cancer Scam; Lied to Steal Thousands, Say Mich. Cops


ROSEVILLE, Michigan (CBS/AP) An unemployed Detroit-area mother accused of lying that her 12-year-old son had cancer in order to steal charitable contributions made to him was arraigned Friday on charges of fraud and child abuse.

Authorities say Carol Lynn Schnuphase, 47, even drugged her son and shaved his head so he appeared to have cancer, then accepted thousands of dollars in donations for his treatment.

A Roseville district court judge ordered Schnuphase held on $100,000 bond.

"A mother, no less, goes so far as to shave the head every other week, shave the eyebrows, and maybe the worst thing of all, to crushing up drugs to put in his applesauce to make him appear lethargic," said Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith.

A hospital has tested the boy and declared him cancer-free, although he was going thorough opiate withdrawal, Smith said. Authorities haven't yet determined what drugs were in the boy's

system and are awaiting hospital test results.

Court records indicate Schnuphase told her son he had leukemia.

Authorities say Schnuphase elicited donations from individuals, groups and members of at least one church who believed they were helping to pay for her son's medical care and gifts as he underwent


The charade appears to have started in December, and eventually Schnuphase's family members and relatives of her deceased husband reported her to police.

After authorities removed the boy from her home earlier this summer, Schnuphase told past donors her son had died and that she needed money for his funeral and burial, Smith said.

Schnuphase was arrested Thursday after visiting the boy, who is in foster care, Greco said.

At Friday's arraignment, defense lawyer Dominic Greco told the judge she was standing mute to the charges. A preliminary hearing was set for Oct. 13. Greco said he thinks that bond was set too high.

"She doesn't have any money," Greco said.

Schnuphase faces two counts of fraud over $1,000, which carry sentences of up to five years. She also is charged with one count of second-degree child abuse, a felony with a sentence of up to four years.