Watch CBS News

New Jersey Man Accused Of Faking Cancer To Solicit Donations

WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- A New Jersey man is accused of lying about having an illness to steal from those who offered to help him.

As CBS2's Meg Baker reports, pretending you're sick with cancer doesn't just give you bad karma, it gets you arrested.

Hillsdale police said 29-year-old Joseph O'Connell, of Washington Township, did just that for profit.

"We received some information that a gentleman was telling members of the community that he was sick, suffering from a cancerous brain tumor. We opened an investigation and subsequently determined that the brain tumor was false," Det. Bill Diedtrich said.

Residents Baker spoke with said they were disgusted by O'Connell's alleged actions.

"The bar is getting lower and lower and lower. People will do anything," Pete Keuhnelian said.

"Sick to my stomach. I lost my husband to pancreatic cancer 10 years ago. And for anyone to fake any illness after going through that, how it affected by family – it's deplorable," said Judy Strand.

O'Connell is charged with theft of more than $500.

He used the charity site Meal Train, which is meant to help those who are ill, having surgery or who just gave birth. But he didn't fit into any of those categories, so he made up a brain tumor, Baker reported.

"Somebody set up a online donation site to obtain meals for him," Diedtrich said. "And through that site he was also given gift cards for food establishments, as well as some cash donations."

He allegedly used the money all for his personal use.

"Whatever money is allocated for people who really have cancer is going to a fraud," said Keuhnelian.

Baker knocked on O'Connell's home on Chestnut Street, but no one came to the door. CBS2's was told he's not at work, because he's unemployed.

Police ask anyone who contributed to the fake fund to let them know.

O'Connell is scheduled to appear in court on November 1.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.