A MUM who faked cancer to swindle more than £52,000 from well-wishers to splurge on holidays was today jailed for nearly three years.
Nicole Elkabbas, 42, claimed she needed to pay for life-saving ovarian cancer treatment, but then spent donations on her lavish lifestyle.
The mum, from Broadstairs, Kent, set up a GoFundMe page where she raked in more than £45,000 in donations before funnelling the funds into her own account.
But she was never diagnosed and instead used huge sums of cash to fund her gambling addiction, pay off mounting debts and splash out on Spurs tickets.
Today, Elkabbas was jailed for two years and nine months at Canterbury Crown Court.
Elkabbas wore a black overcoat, face mask and polka dot scarf and carried her possessions in an Asda bag for life as she left the dock at Canterbury Crown Court in Kent for immediate imprisonment.
Caging her, Judge Mark Weekes told the "cunning and manipulating" con artist her allegations were "pure wild fantasy and a deliberate deceit."
Elkabbaas had "embarked on a lengthy, involved and sophisticated deception of people", the judge said, adding: "All the while you were gambling, enjoying shopping trips and luxuries in Italy and Spain at their expense.
"It has a wider impact on the community.
"There are many real cases of those who desperately need crowdfunding or charitable donations for themselves or for their relatives at times of acute anguish.
"Cases such as yours create a mistrust amongst charitably-minded members of the public.
"They create a sense of unease that may make them less willing to give for fear that, like you, the genuinely stricken person is taking them for a ride.
"It promotes scepticism and even cynicism in an area that can ill afford it."
At a hearing in November, Elkabbas was also found guilty of one count of possession of criminal property in relation to the thousands of pounds worth of donations she had transferred to her bank account.
The fundraising page titled "Nicole needs our help treatment" was written in the third person from her mother, who Elkabbas cares for full time.
It played on the public's heartstrings by describing her as a "beautiful daughter" and "loving mum to her 11-year-old son".
Prosecuting Mr Irwin explained a picture on the GoFundMe website showing Elkabbas "apparently stricken and in her hospital bed looking very poorly indeed" was in fact from a previous operation to remove her gallbladder.
The surgery at the Spencer Private Hospital in Margate, Kent was paid for by private healthcare insurance and completely unrelated to cancer, and was "instead used to garner sympathy".
Consultant General George Tsavellas, who conducted the keyhole surgery in January 2018, found "no malignance whatsoever" and said both ovaries "looked normal".
A gynecologist she claimed diagnosed her with cancer told the court Elkabbas had never been his patient and described the claims as "complete fantasy".
Throughout the trial it was revealed how the mum-of-one splurged the cash on football tickets, restaurant meals and gambling.
WEB OF LIES
The former Harrods and Marks and Spencer employee described herself as a "gambling addict" in 2018 after she spent more than £60,000 in one year.
She called her habit "excessive, erratic and extreme".
The mum also took six holidays to Spain, even visiting the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona – but denied the jaunts were “tourist trips”.
Instead Elkabbas claimed she was visiting a specialist clinic where surgery would cost 40,000 euros and a further 13,700 euros a month for a cycle of drug treatment lasting between six to 12 months.
But Judge Mark Weekes said: "There was no paperwork for procedures in Spain or medical records to prove this."
Prosecuting Ben Irwin said: "She didn't use that money for cancer treatment. She didn't need that money for cancer treatment.
"Ms Elkabbas instead used that money to gamble, pay old debts and fund her expensive lifestyle."
In a dramatic U-turn when taking the stand, Elkabbas even admitted "now I do not know if I had cancer" despite previously stating she was "100 per cent sure" she had the disease.
Now I do not know if I had cancer
She also accepted "what was written on the [GoFundMe] page was misleading" and regretted not updating it, the court heard.
One woman directly transferred £4,900 after she was convinced by Elkabbas' "lies" designed to "extract money", according to Mr Irwin.
A jury was told Elkabbas, defended by Oliver Kirk, even met a Good Samaritan who donated £5,900 in person to convince him she needed more cash.
She messaged an online pal who she swooned into her campaign by describing the "torment" her medical procedures had caused her young son, the court heard.
The judge said he would consider her steps to address her gambling, caring for her ill mother and the fact she is a single mother when determining her sentence.
Elkabbas was released on bail before today's sentencing.
Source: Read Full Article