Woman accused of faking cancer, scamming hundreds of thousands of dollars
11/21/2016 11:00 am PST
UPDATE March 29, 2017: Lacy Johnson -- also known as Lacy Hall; Lacy McAllister; Lacey Ann Marble -- is headed for the daunting digs of the Los Angeles County Jail after striking plea deals on multiple counts in January.
For all the schemes, scams and victims left in financial ruin, Johnson will serve only 180 days, and she's ordered to perform 30 days of community labor, pay $127,000 in restitution, and spend five years on formal probation.
How much would you pay to save the life of your best friend? A California woman raised a lot of money after claiming she was dying of cancer.
The big problem: investigators believe it was all one big scam.
Crime Watch Daily teams up with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for the all-new investigation.
Lacy Elizabeth Johnson grew up in Los Angeles. She seemed to be a sweet young woman with a loving family. Dorinda Gardner was so close to the Johnson family that they asked her to act as Lacy's legal guardian should anything ever happen. Lacy's mom died of cancer, and that tragic loss would help forge an even greater bond between Dorinda and Lacy.
"I saw her as almost my daughter," said Dorinda. "I figured she would be a companion to me you know. We would do lunches as I got older and after I retired we would have some fun trips together."
But the lunches, the trips, all went unplanned. Lacy's life, so she claimed, was taking a different, darker course.
"She came to me stating that she had un-treatable cancer," said Dorinda. "At that point in time it was lung cancer, which is what her mother passed from. A few months later she told me it had metastasized to the brain and the only thing that would counter it would be experimental treatments in Tijuana."
Dorinda checked out the clinic in Tijuana that Lacy mentioned. It was legitimate. And so thought Dorinda, were Lacy's claims of being sick.
"I knew the family history and so I just assumed that it was true," said Dorinda. "I didn't have any reason not to believe it."
Then came the plea for money. Dorinda just couldn't refuse the young woman she considered to be her own daughter -- even on her limited retirement income.
"We ended up giving money in three or four different installments and it ended up to be about $28,000," said Dorinda.
Lacy reportedly promised to pay it all back -- that promise proved to be empty.
"She wouldn't show up when we were supposed to meet," said Dorinda. "And then the very last day, I called her and her cellphone was disconnected, and I think that's when reality hit."
At Temple Beth Emet in Burbank, California, Rabbi Mark Harris Sobel prides himself on providing a warm welcoming place of worship. Lacy and her family were very active in Temple Beth Emet and part of a close-knit family of congregants.
"I watched Lacy grow up, I watched her older brother Morgan get bar mitzvah'd here at the temple," said Sobel. "I certainly spent a large amount of time with her mother at St. Joe's when she was dying."
When Lacy announced to the congregation that she too had cancer, everyone embraced her, just like they did her mom.
"We have a concept called Tsaddiq, and that comes from a word for 'righteous behavior,'" said Sobel. "We are commanded to take care of the needy."
And take care they did. Roni Razankova, whose own mother passed from cancer, led the fundraising brigade.
"I can only imagine how somebody who is 30 years old and sick from cancer, how she feels and how her family felt," said Roni. "It was horrible for me to hear."
But this time, according to Roni, Lacy claimed it was breast cancer, not lung cancer, and she told people she desperately needed gene therapy from the Mayo Clinic in New York. Not Tijuana.
"I jumped right away to do whatever I could to help," said Roni. "Especially when I heard she needs to go to a special treatment in New York, and that she didn't have enough financial support."
The kindhearted people at Temple Beth Emet gave thousands. But there is one big problem: there is no Mayo Clinic in New York.
Then Lacy reportedly goes off the radar, again.
"I start inquiring about her situation: How is she doing? How is the treatment? And nobody was willing to give me any information," said Roni. "Nobody knew anything about her progression in the treatment."
"I Googled her name to find out if there was any posting, and that's when the website popped up about 'bring Lacy Johnson to justice,'" said Dorinda Gardner.
On that site, there were scores of statements from people Lacy allegedly scammed. The stories ranged from claiming she had various types of Stage 4 cancer to allegedly conning people into giving money to a fake charity.
"I don't think she realizes what she's done, and it's troublesome that she believes she's entitled to this money," said L.A. County Sheriff's Det. Geoff Elliott.
Lacy Johnson is accused of scamming people out of thousands of dollars in the worst way: by reportedly telling them she was dying of cancer.
Crime Watch Daily tracked down Lacy Johnson outside of court and grilled her about the disgusting allegations.
"In her mind, she doesn't believe she's doing anything wrong," said Det. Elliott.
Detectives claim Lacy is the consummate con artist. She's accused of setting up scams and collecting money from California to Texas. In Colorado Springs, detectives claim she set up a fake charity called "Care Package Bears" which reportedly sent supplies to U.S. soldiers serving overseas.
In one alleged scam, Lacy claimed her dad died of a heart attack and she was destitute. Then, detectives claim, the accused serial scamstress even faked cancer, pleading for money so she could get experimental treatment in Tijuana, Mexico.
Detectives say Lacy not only stole one man's heart, but a lot of his money. Her ex-fiancé claims she used his name and Social Security number to open three credit cards without his knowledge and put him more than $40,000 in debt.
The ex claims he and Lacy met on a dating website, where she went by the alias "Lacy Marble." That's just one of the many names detectives say she's used to con people.
Daniel Gurule met Lacy through an online dating service.
"She gave me a story about her dad having Stage 4 colon cancer," said Daniel.
Over time Lacy tells Daniel she lost her grandmother, father, uncle and cat. She needed $15,000 to pay bills.
"She said she spent her money on bills, rent, her father's medical care," said Daniel.
The story is even more heartbreaking for "Clinton," who asked us to use his first name only.
Clinton was once engaged to Lacy. She used his name and Social Security number to open three credit cards without his knowledge and put him more than $40,000 in debt.
Clinton sensed something was fishy when the key to the mailbox went missing from the kitchen drawer. He says Lacy stole it, hid the key in her purse and watched that mailbox like a hawk. Clinton testified that Lacy didn't want him to see the credit card statements that would show she racked up $42,000.
Clinton claims he knew Lacy was up to no good the day he got a call from a private investigator. The investigator urged Clinton to check out a website created by victims of Lacy's alleged scams. Clinton testifies that's when her cover was blown.
Daniel couldn't help but wonder if being criminally prosecuted would help make an honest woman out of Lacy. Doesn't seem so. After her arrest, and while still facing criminal charges, Daniel says he found a personal ad on Craigslist that he suspected, based on her wording, was Lacy looking for new victims. Daniel purchased a prepaid phone and using the alias "Jeff," he replied. Sure enough, Daniel said he received a picture of Lacy -- and then came the claims that her dad was suffering from skin cancer. Even with the threat of going to jail hanging over her, it seems Lacy's scam was alive and well.
One man we'll call "Joe" is determined to get lacy locked up for a long time. He's investigating the cases of 20 other alleged victims.
We'll see if Lacy dares to target and groom her new friends in the county jail. That's where she's headed after cutting plea deals with the Los Angeles County District Attorney.
Lacy Johnson -- also known as Lacy Hall; Lacy McAllister; Lacey Ann Marble -- is headed for the daunting digs of the Los Angeles County Jail after striking plea deals on multiple counts in January.
For all the schemes, scams and victims left in financial ruin, Johnson will serve only 180 days, and she's ordered to perform 30 days of community service, 30 days of community labor, pay $127,000 in restitution, and spend five years on formal probation.
Lacy's godmother Dorinda Gardner's gut-wrenching statement: "Lacy ... now, I have lung cancer -- eight tumors to be exact, not responsive to conventional treatment. The money you stole from me is no longer available to help me in my time of need."