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Suffolk DA: Cancer charity scammer pleads guilty

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A Suffolk County woman accused of pretending to have cancer and soliciting donations through a charity scam to fuel her drug habit pleaded guilty Monday to a slew of felony charges, including grand larceny and forgery, The Associated Press reported Dec. 11.

Brittany Ozarowski, 22, will soon begin two years of drug treatment, some of which will be in-patient therapy, through Suffolk County’s Judicial Diversion Program, an alternative to jail program for non-violent offenders. She has also been sentenced to another year of probation and community service. Under state law, Ozarowski could have spent up to seven years in an upstate prison.

The Selden woman was arrested last April with a donation jar in her hand while she was soliciting donations in front of a supermarket in Sayville. Prosecutors said for at least 13 months she had been claiming she was in desperate need of cash to pay medical bills for cancer treatment and collecting donations at local businesses.

According to the indictment against her, Ozarowski told a variety of stories to prospective donors, claiming on different occasions to have brain, bone, stomach, thyroid and ovarian cancer. Authorities said she often approached business owners across Long Island and asked to place donation jars in their shops. She also allegedly solicited donations online through her own website, Facebook and PayPal profiles.

Ozarowski’s wide range of victims even included members of her own family, Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said. After convincing her father and grandmother that she was suffering from cancer, her grandmother gave her more than $100,000 and her father exhausted his retirement savings, investigators said in April.

“This was a despicable scam,” Spota said. “There was no cancer, no chemotherapy, no radiation and no medical bills. There was just heroin.”

Her attorney, George Duncan, told the AP that his client was remorseful and welcomes drug therapy.

Ozarowski was also ordered to pay more than $10,000 in restitution to the victims.

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