Mother gets 20 years for lying about son’s healthPublished 11:09am Saturday, April 6, 2013
A Titus woman, who pleaded guilty to two counts of theft by deception for lying about her son being terminally ill, was sentenced to 20 years in jail by Circuit Court Judge Sibley Reynolds on Thursday.
Stephanie Jones, 23, of Titus fabricated a story about her then 5-year-old son having Stage IV neuroblastoma, which is an invasive and fast-spreading form of cancer.
She used the story to raise funds for a trip to take her and her son to Walt Disney World.
Hardee’s in Wetumpka donated 25 percent of its day’s sales on July 8, 2010, to go to the family, while local band Surgestone raised $1,300 at a benefit concert for Jones’ son.
District Attorney for the 19th Judicial Circuit Randall Houston said the case came to light during a Department of Human Resources investigation in which alleged fraud was discovered.
“I think everyone in the tri-county area who wanted to do something good for the little boy was a victim,” Houston said. “And the biggest damage she did was to the legitimate charitable causes out there, because people will now second-guess their actions.”
Jones pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree theft by deception and one count of second-degree attempted theft by deception.
Jones and her son did make the trip to Orlando, Fla. Only her son did not have cancer.
Some of those who bought into Jones’ story included Dr. Victoria Beckman, who personally gave money and a gas card for the Disney World trip.
Beckman said she met Jones when she sought medical treatment for physical manifestations caused by the emotional stress.
“She had just been told Brandon’s illness was terminal,” Beckman told The Herald in July 2010. “I talked to her a long time and told her I would help her medically as well as emotionally.”
Houston said Beckman wasn’t the only person Jones used in a deliberate plot to take a free vacation.
“She took advantage of all the folks in the community who have good will and tried to help,” he said.