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Federal charges for Shelby County woman who faked cancer

By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter

A Shelby County woman who faked a terminal cancer diagnosis to bilk her friends and family out of money now faces Federal charges and is in Federal custody.

Jennifer Cataldo, who APR exposed as a scam artist in May, now faces Federal wire fraud charges, according to an indictment unsealed earlier this month.

The complaint, filed in US District Court in the Northern District of Alabama, alleged Cataldo falsely claimed she had terminal brain cancer in order to bilk her family and friends out of more than $100,000 in personal donations and accepted payouts from two GoFundMe accounts totaling nearly $40,000.

In a letter written to a Deputy Attorney General and filed in Shelby County Circuit Court last week, Cataldo essentially admitted to her crimes and asked the court to remove $1,800 from her bank account and use it to repay some of her victims.

“The money that is in that account I would like to be given to all the victims of what I wrongfully did and the people who cared and the citizens whom I hurt,” Cataldo wrote. “Please take all the money and let the process of contributing to paying back of the money that I stole from each victim and organization.”

In the letter, Cataldo also said she will “have to live with the horrible decisions that I made” and that she hopes to prove herself a better person.

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Cataldo’s alleged crimes were not committed quickly, and she allegedly took much more than what is listed in court documents.

Cataldo’s father, Robert Flynn, contacted APR in March with a wild story about State officials, including former Gov. Robert Bentley and former AG Luther Strange, attempting to steal a large malpractice settlement from his dying daughter.

The story, it turned out, was pure fiction, conjured up by Cataldo in an effort to steal money from her parents. Flynn and his wife, in separate interviews with APR, said they had paid out most of their retirement savings – nearly $500,000 in all – to support their daughter, whom they believed was dying. In addition, her parents devoted their lives to caring for Cataldo’s young son.

As of now, Cataldo’s parents have not pressed charges and a Law Enforcement source said that isn’t expected to change. That means Cataldo won’t face charges for the bulk of the money she stole or for the most egregious of her crimes.

However, her parents have thus far refused to bail her out, and incarceration has not been easy for Cataldo.

A Law Enforcement source said that Cataldo attempted suicide her first week in jail and spent the next several days on suicide watch – locked in a padded room without clothing.

One issue still somewhat puzzling investigators is what Cataldo spent her money on. In the span of just three years, she collected the bulk of nearly $200,000, not counting thousands from her parents, and the income from her husband’s jobs. Yet, her bank account held less than $2,000 when she was arrested.

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Cataldo’s friends believe she could have been hooked on opioids, and a source said Cataldo herself has hinted at a “pill problem,” but the usual signs of such an addiction aren’t there. Investigators have found little evidence that Cataldo was doctor shopping – bouncing from doctor to doctor to get prescription meds – over the last few years and couldn’t find documented purchases in her bank records.

Cataldo’s next court date is set for early September. She will remain in Federal custody until that time.

 

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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