NEW BEDFORD, Mass. – A former special education teacher who faked having cancer and spent $37,000 in donations on a vacation and jewelry was sentenced Thursday to serve two years.
Heather Faria, 27, of Dighton, also was sentenced to eight years of probation during a hearing in New Bedford Superior Court. Faria pleaded guilty in April to five counts of larceny and one count of gross fraud.
Faria began telling people she had stomach cancer in 2003. Friends hosted several fundraisers, including a 50-mile relay race that raised $9,000, after she said she was having trouble choosing between paying for food or expensive treatments.
Skeptics later checked with Dana Farber Cancer Institute, where Faria claimed to be a patient, said Francis O'Boy, Faria's lawyer.
Prosecutors said she spent the money on a vacation to the island of St. Martin, a big-screen television, jewelry and cell phones.
O'Boy said Faria initially believed she had cancer after a doctor recommended she get a lump on her arm checked. But he said she continued to accept the donations after she learned she didn't have cancer.
Faria resigned her teaching job in June 2005. She will be eligible for parole after one year and also must repay the donations, O'Boy said.
"She should have given it back," he said. "Once you get started, how do you get off a moving train?"