A Lehigh Township man who faked cancer to steal more than $36,000 through an online fundraiser will serve one to seven years in state prison for lies that a prosecutor said extended beyond his health.
Not only did Christopher King pretend to have non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but as police investigated him, he also falsely claimed he was a military veteran, Northampton County Assistant District Attorney Abigail Bellafatto said Friday at his sentencing.
Neither was true, though the 30-year-old King’s GoFundMe page drew more than 1,000 donations — including from a cast member of “The Walking Dead” — after he opened it in November 2016, according to court records. Though King said in court that he hopes to pay back those donors, Bellafatto said she doesn’t believe him.
“He’s lied too many times to get out of trouble,” Bellafatto told President Judge Michael Koury Jr.
In July, King pleaded guilty to theft, a felony. Koury ordered him to make restitution — and to write a letter of apology to each of his victims.
According to court records, King fell under suspicion after a donor contacted Lehigh Township police in October 2017, saying she believed he was running a scam. Among those questioning King’s lies was actress Sabrina Gennarino, who plays Tamiel on AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” She made donations to him and championed his cause, the arrest affidavit says.
King’s story traveled as far as the United Kingdom, where it was featured in a January 2017 online article in The Mirror, a London tabloid.
GoFundMe closed King’s fundraiser in September 2017 amid suspicions of fraud, police said. But to investigators, King continued to insist he had cancer, and he pointed them to a slew of medical providers that he claimed had treated him, police said.
Police contacted all of those providers, who said they had no record of that diagnosis. Likewise, investigators reached out to the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard to determine whether he had served, and received letters back saying he had not, police said.
Defense attorney Rory Driscole said his client has sought mental-health treatment and has no prior criminal record.
“While I can’t go back in time and reverse what I did, you can rest assured that this will never happen again,” King wrote in a letter to Koury. “This is not the type of person that I am, and I am deeply ashamed of myself for even considering what I did, let alone doing it.”
In questioning from Koury, King offered little explanation for his actions, though he suggested he had once tried to enlist in the armed forces.
“So you just assumed you were in the military for the past 12 years even though you never served in the military?” a skeptical Koury asked.
At the time of the scam, the father of King’s girlfriend was terminally ill, though not from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, according to Bellafatto. On social media, King tried to pass off the older’s man prescriptions as his own, posting photos of the medicine bottles to persuade people he was sick, court records said.
King’s girlfriend, Terri Seip, said King helped her father feel comfortable before his death in March 2018. In a letter to Koury, Seip characterized the thefts as a “desperate attempt” by King to make her father happy.
Bellafatto said investigators found no evidence King spent the money on the father. Authorities asked King to produce receipts showing that, and he was unable to, she said.
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