AURORA – Friends of a woman accused of pretending her son had cancer to get thousands of dollars in donations are describing how far she went to convince them her 6-year-old was terminally ill.
The Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office said Sandy Nguyen, 28, tricked her son, family, and community into thinking the child had been diagnosed with cancer in September 2012.
"He's an amazing little kid, and I can't imagine anybody doing this to a child," said Jordan Miller, who's known Nguyen for years.
She said the boy talked about how he didn't feel well, how his mom said he was sick, and that he was embarrassed he didn't have hair.
Miller and her husband Dave said they gave the family several hundred dollars, and Dave even shaved his head when Nguyen requested people do so to show support for her son.
"If it made that little boy feel better about himself for just a minute, that's all that mattered to me," Dave said.
Investigators said the community began collecting money for the boy in September 2013, and that more than $25,000 had been given and placed into an account for use by the Nguyen family.
Nguyen had accepted at least $16,000 from that account over the last several months, according to a sheriff's office news release. Investigators said Nguyen and her family also went on a trip to Disneyland using donated money. Officials said they found $23,000 in cash in Nguyen's home.
Jordan said reading of her friend's arrest made her physically sick.
"What kills me the most is not even that we lost money, it's just how we felt doing these things," Jordan said. "I feel like this crazy woman just took a part of us and put it in a blender."
According to a flyer from a benefit 5K run, Nguyen's story was elaborate. The flyer said the boy had an "aggressive, rare, stage 3 childhood bone cancer and Acute Myelogenous Leukemia," which required "317 days of chemotherapy, 7 days of radiation, multiple blood & platelet transfusions, monthly spinal taps, biopsies, and MRI's."
It says the family found out in 2013 that the boy had only eight months to live, and that a month later the cancer was gone, but returned the next month.
The Millers said Nguyen also told them she was pregnant and that the new baby's cord blood would be used to help save her son.
The boy attended Rolling Hills Elementary in the Cherry Creek School district, a school that held fundraisers to help him. After learning of the alleged scam, the school principal sent a letter home to parents.
(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)