A couple from central New York fabricated a 2017 story about their son having cancer, soliciting about $3,000 in funds for his recovery and a visit with the Syracuse University football team, according to the Cayuga County Sheriff's Office.
Syracuse.com reported that Martin and Jolene LaFrance faked the story of their son, CJ LaFrance, having Hodgkin lymphoma, and set up a GoFundMe page that received $3,334 in donations.
The family was also invited to attend a Syracuse practice in August 2017, where CJ, then 9 years old, met with the student-athletes and played catch with receiver Ervin Philips and linebacker Kielan Whitner. Quarterback Eric Dungey shared throwing tips and head coach Dino Babers offered his well wishes.
CJ's parents said their son also bonded with two-time cancer survivor Roy Wittke, Syracuse's director of player development. After the visit, the boy's uncle continued the fabrication, saying CJ's cancer had been upgraded to Stage 3 and that he had undergone both radiation and surgery.
The four-month investigation by the Cayuga County Sheriff's Office "conclusively" learned that CJ had never been diagnosed with cancer. His parents were charged with scheme to defraud and endangering the welfare of a child. They will appear in court on May 16 to be arraigned.
"The LaFrance Family has violated GoFundMe's terms of service, and all donors will receive a refund," GoFundMe said in a statement. "Additionally, they have been banned from our platform. It's important to remember that our platform is backed by the GoFundMe Guarantee, which means that in the rare case that GoFundMe, law enforcement or a user finds campaigns are misused, donors are fully protected and will get their money back. Additionally, we are working with law enforcement on their investigation."