The series of personal calamities that led a woman to defraud community members of $10,000 in fundraising money has been laid bare in court.
The series of personal calamities that led a woman to defraud community members of $10,000 in fundraising money has been laid bare in court.

Fake cancer scammer sentenced to home detention

THE series of personal calamities that led a Nhulunbuy woman to fake a cancer diagnosis and defraud community members of $10,000 in fundraising money has been laid bare in court.

Cheryl Pryor, 40, was sentenced to eight month's home detention on Friday after pleading guilty in the Supreme Court to fraud, forgery and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

The court heard Pryor left the Territory town for Sydney in January last year from where she told a friend she had been diagnosed with leukaemia and throat cancer.

The Nhulunbuy community subsequently raised $14,387.31 via GoFundMe to help with Pryor's treatment, $10,000 of which she pocketed before police disrupted the scam.

Her lawyer, Nicola MacCarron, said Pryor's woes all started when she was working as the head of a Salvation Army church and welfare centre in Melbourne.

"During that time, however, it was discovered by police that one of Ms Pryor's employees was planning an armed robbery at the centre on the day that approximately $90,000 worth of Woolworths vouchers were to be delivered," she said.

"Police conducted an operation and that robbery was thwarted, however, the incident devastated Ms Pryor."

Luckily, the church was able to secure another "dream" job for Ms Pryor, this time working as a youth and children's minister in Darwin where a man she had met online "coincidentally" also lived.

But again fate intervened when the work was not as described and Pryor was eventually booted out of the Salvos after her relationship with the non-Christian man became serious.

In a further stroke of luck, Pryor found another dream job as a school chaplain in Nhulunbuy but her happiness was still not complete as the relationship broke down.

In a return to fortune however, the man visited her in Nhulunbuy where he proposed and they moved in together.

By 2018, things had again soured in the relationship and funding for the chaplaincy program had also dried up along with its subsidised rent and Pryor's life once more took a turn for the worse.

It was then that she flew to Sydney where Ms MacCarron said she had not intended to stay.

"However, she said when she arrived in Sydney she felt such relief that she wasn't there she couldn't face the idea of returning to Nhulunbuy and going back to the tension and trouble in her relationship," she said.

"Her reason for (then fabricating her diagnosis) was she just didn't want to return - she knows now she should have been braver, she should have handled things in a different manner."

In sentencing, Justice Peter Barr said "given the nature of your offending and your lies to police it is difficult to know what parts of your version of events should be accepted".

"While you may be suffering, the woman you deceived over a period of time is left sad and angry," he said.

"She is left to deal with the effect of your dishonesty and deceit on her personal reputation and her family's reputation."

Originally published as Fake cancer scammer sentenced to home detention


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