Lana Rovang's former boss weighs in on cancer fraud charges
Experts say people who fake terminal illnesses and solicit donations don't always do it for the money
The owner of the daycare where 32-year-old Lana Rovang worked says even if she is found guilty of fraud for accepting donations under false pretenses she should not go to jail.
Marc St-Germain is just one of many people allegedly duped into believing she had a heart condition and Stage 4 breast cancer.
He said he felt sympathy for the single mother when she came to him saying she only had months to live, offering free daycare for her two children and eventually a job.
St-Germain even helped fundraise the more than $20,000 at the centre of the fraud charges currently laid against Rovang. He said many daycare staff members also put in countless volunteer hours for the cause.
But he says Rovang was a good employee and mother — a statement he is sticking by even though he has received criticism.
"I know saying that, 'You're not teaching your kids to [not] lie' and all that, but she was a great employee and she was so great with the kids," said St-Germain.
He said if Rovang is found guilty then he would like to see a punishment of community service, volunteering at a cancer centre or repaying the money donated.
'More than the cancer'
"I think it's more than the cancer, it's more about the heart. It was just lie after lie after lie, it's pathological ... and that's what she really needs help with," said St-Germain.
Experts say people who fake terminal illnesses and solicit donations don't always do it for the money.
"For some of the cases similar to this that I've been involved with it really is somebody who's looking for sympathy more than the money," said Calgary-based forensic psychologist Patrick Baillie.
"And other people start contributing and they don't know how to back out of the situation. For other individuals, they find themselves in financial distress and this becomes a way of relieving those other kinds of problems."
Baillie says cancer is often the disease of choice because it's easy to get information on symptoms and mimic them.
Scams affect donations, says cancer society
This isn't the first time someone has been charged with faking cancer for financial gain.
Calgary's Kristopher Cook was sentenced to six months in jail last year and ordered to pay the Canadian Cancer Society $7,500. The organization says the increasing number of cases of fraud damage their reputation.
"It's disheartening for everybody," said society spokesperson Tiffany Kraus.
Kraus says scams take a huge toll on fundraising efforts.
"When a situation like this comes up you know people just wonder if the fundraiser they're contributing to is legitimate, so it's unfortunate on all fronts," she said.
Kraus says this kind of fraud is becoming more common, and she is warning people if they have any questions about a private fundraiser held in the name of the cancer society to give them a call.
Calgary police are asking anyone who thinks they may be a victim of charity fraud to come forward. They are also reminding people to be cautious about private fundraisers.
"Obviously a lot of personal fundraisers are held for things like this," said Const. Patricia Ariss. "The advice that we can give is use your judgment. Know who you're donating to. Know what the cause is."
Rovang is expected back in court Jan. 29.