CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The arraignment of a Long Island woman on fraud and other charges for allegedly faking a cancer diagnosis to support her heroin addiction was adjourned Wednesday until Thursday.
Brittany Ozarowski, 21, claimed to have ovarian, stomach, bone and brain cancer and solicited tens of thousands of dollars from people for more than a year to help pay for medical expenses, Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said.
But Spota said it was nothing more than just “a despicable scam.”
“There was no cancer, no chemotherapy, no radiation and no medical bills,” Spota said. “There was just heroin.”
Under the heading “Help Save My Life,” prosecutors said she posted pictures of herself sitting in a wheelchair on a website saying she had “few options left.”
On Ozarowski’s website, it says: “In September of 2011, I was diagnosed with stage two ovarian cancer as well as stomach cancer.”
It then goes on to say: “I was cancer free until they had found a tumor on my left hip in February 2012. That is when I found out that I have bone cancer. The cancer has spread to my spine as well as my brain.”
Ozarowski claimed treatments cost her $33,000 a day, Spota said.
Along with Ozarowski’s donation site, authorities said she also had a Facebook page sharing a lengthy story about a car crash that left her with severe injuries. More lies, according to police.
As CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan reported, Ozarowski explained to former classmates at Newfield High School that her hair didn’t fall out due to special vitamins. Detectives said she forged letters and documents from doctors and hospitals to keep up the facade, McLogan reported.
Spota said many believed her story, including several businesses owners who allowed her to display collection jars and even sponsored a concert to raise cash.
“The truth is she is a 21-year-old drug addict with four open narcotics cases and we have strong evidence she forged doctors’ notes to avoid court appearances,” Spota said.
One of her alleged victims, Thomas O’Grady, said he held a fundraiser for Ozarowski. O’Grady owns Tuscany Gourmet Market in Miller Place.
“I lost $5,000 of my own, $7,265 we raised at the fundraiser and then you have all the customers who have been donating for seven months into a jar,” he told 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera.
“We’ve been duped,” O’Grady told CBS 2’s McLogan.
Another business owner, Elizabeth Patricola, said Ozarowski was very convincing. Patricola runs Paws N Claws in Miller Place and held a fundraiser for Ozarowski.
“The first day I gave her $100,” she said. “Extremely believable — she was tiny and frail looking.”
“I wanted to help her so much. She was very believable,” Patricola, a cancer survivor herself, told McLogan.
Spota said the young drug addict lived in her grandmother’s Selden home, but even conned the elderly woman into selling it to pay for bogus cancer treatments.
Denise Bambola lives next door to the house where Ozarowski grew up with her grandmother. She said she too was duped and donated $10,000 to help the family.
“She looked sick. She looked like she was going to die,” she told CBS 2’s Weijia Jiang. “She completely fooled me. She completely fooled everybody.”
“They seemed like nice people. I had no clue we lived next door to somebody that would be capable of that,” another neighbor, Toni Ann Altebrando, told McLogan.
Spota said a donor became suspicious and notified authorities after Ozarowski did not accept his offer to pay for cancer treatments and instead kept asking for cash.
Ozarowski was arrested April 1 while soliciting shoppers in front of a supermarket, Spota said.
The 24-count grand jury indictment was unsealed Wednesday evening. Ozarowski is scheduled to be arraigned on grand larceny, forgery and scheme to defraud charges Thursday morning.
In addition, she has four pending drug charges. Her attorney did not return CBS 2’s calls for comment.
She is currently in jail in lieu of $5,000 cash bail.
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