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Martin and Jolene LaFrance of Port Bryan, NY, have a young son, CJ LaFrance, who they had claimed was battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The family developed a relationship with Syracuse director of player development Roy Witke, who twice beat cancer, with that relationship leading to the then-nine-year-old boy as well as his family visiting an Orange football practice last August to meet head coach Dino Babers and several of his favorite players.
On Friday, following a four-month investigation, the mother and father were arrested and charged by the Cayuga County (NY) Sheriff’s Office with scheme to defraud and endangering the welfare of a child, the Syracuse Post-Standard has reported. In essence, the couple is accused of lying about their son’s cancer and profiting from the lie, with the Post-Standard writing that “the sheriff’s office ‘conclusively’ learned that CJ was never diagnosed with cancer or any other medical condition.”
Through a GoFundMe page, the couple had received a little over $3,300 in donations, which led to the charges; that page is no longer accepting donations, it should be noted.
From the Post-Standard‘s story regarding the young boy’s visit to practice last year:
After the visit, CJ’s uncle, Justin Roe, said CJ’s diagnosis had recently been upgraded to Stage 3, that CJ had already undergone a full round of radiation and that he had lymph nodes removed via surgery. He added that a malignant tumor was found in CJ’s abdomen.
“He has not been getting better,” Roe said previously.
At this point in time, the mother and father are the only ones who have been charged in connection with the despicable deceit. The investigation, however, remains ongoing.
UPDATED 2:22 p.m. ET: A GoFundMe spokesperson reached out to CFT and issued us the following statement on the situation:
The LaFrance Family has violated GoFundMe’s terms of service, and all donors will receive a refund. Additionally, they have been banned from our platform. It’s important to remember that our platform is backed by the GoFundMe Guarantee, which means that in the rare case that GoFundMe, law enforcement or a user finds campaigns are misused, donors are fully protected and will get their money back. Additionally, we are working with law enforcement on their investigation.
Additionally, it’s important to remember that misuse is extremely rare on our platform. Campaigns with misuse make up less than one-tenth of one percent of all campaigns. With that said, there are unfortunate and rare instances where people create campaigns with the intention to take advantage of others’ generosity. In the small handful of cases where misuse occurs, GoFundMe takes action to resolve the issue. For additional information about the GoFundMe guarantee, see here: gofundme.com/guarantee