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Utah woman faked child's cancer to collect donations, police say

Formal charges have been filed against a Vernal woman who police say made up a story about her 4-year-old daughter having cancer and solicited more than $3,000 from sympathetic donors.

Abreail Winkler, 30, was charged Tuesday with one count of felony communications fraud and is set to appear in court Sept. 9. It's not clear whether she has an attorney, and a call to a clothing boutique police say she owns went unanswered Wednesday.

Vernal Police said they began investigating Winkler in July after multiple people complained that she duped them into donating.

The girl's father told police he had no knowledge of any cancer treatments or any diagnosis of leukemia. Detective Shaun Smith told the Deseret News the little girl herself believed she was sick.

After reviewing medical records for the girl and Winkler's two other children, detectives said they found no evidence of a leukemia diagnosis or anything similar.

Police said Winkler admitted to making up the story in an effort to get her ex-husband's attention, but said "things got out of hand," police wrote. She said she'd used the funds to pay bills.

Winkler was arrested Aug. 13, and has since posted bail.

Authorities said Winkler received at least $3,183 from fundraising events and personal donors, including people whose own children had legitimate cancer diagnoses.

Winkler's ex-husband, Derick Winkler, now has custody of the girl.

"She's loving life and getting into preschool," he told the Deseret News on Tuesday. "And she doesn't have dark circles under her eyes anymore."

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