(CORYDON) - A Corydon woman was arrested Friday on felony theft charges after it was determined her claim of suffering from an inoperable brain tumor was fabricated and she had taken donations from the public for assistance.
27-year-old Teryn Applegate received charitable donations from members of the Southern Indiana community under the false pretenses that she had been diagnosed with the tumor, said Nick Smith, a detective with the Harrison County Sheriff's Department.
"Fundraising efforts that Ms. Applegate was involved in allege that doctors had only given Ms. Applegate six months to live and that she needed help with her medical and burial expenses," Smith said. "A police investigation uncovered medical records confirming that Ms. Applegate had never been diagnosed with any type of brain tumor."
Smith said that Applegate was cooperative with HCSD officers during their investigation, and that it appears that she also lied about the medical condition to her three children, fiancé and the family and friends who helped organize fundraising efforts.
"We don't want to speculate that anyone knew [of the false claim] and was involved, but it appears it was her story and she made it up, and the other people involved may have been family members and victims that believed that same story and simply thought that they could help," he said.
Smith said that Applegate came to the sheriff's department to talk with investigators before she was arrested about 4:30 p.m.
"We did some subpoenas for medical records and we kind of knew the answer and we brought her in and talked to her," he said. "She cooperated with the investigation and told us about her false claims and the fact that she had received this money under a false pretense from community members of our county and Clark County."
One of Applegate's fundraisers took place at the VFW in Charlestown, and she took money from a Harrison County church. She was featured in a News and Tribune article previewing the May Charlestown event.
The News and Tribune learned about Applegate's story after a news brief was submitted promoting the Charlestown event, where admission was $5. She told a News and Tribune reporter she was diagnosed with the brain tumor in December and suffered from migraines because of the affliction police now say she made up.
Smith said officers began their investigation after an anonymous call was received in the last week claiming that Applegate had lied about her medical condition for profit.
"It is pretty appalling and horrible. Our community stands beside each other and helps each other in need," Smith said. "This is a perfect example of our community and other communities doing this. But, unfortunately that kindness was taken advantage of as a kind of weakness.
"The community tried to help, and they were just lied to."
Smith said it has not been determined how much money Applegate obtained through the fraudulent fundraising and that he is hoping the public will help investigators reach that determination. He said Applegate has said that she is unsure of the amount of donations or the number of people who made contributions. A webpage where people could donate to her reported cause shows $667 has been collected via the website, but money also was collected in other ways.
"It's one of those calls to action to the community to say, 'Hey, if you have been a victim of these false claims, please, contact us,'" he said. "We take this very seriously, and we will leave no stone unturned to make sure all the victims are recuperated, or at least, listed with the court proceedings."
At this point, Applegate has been preliminarily charged with two counts of class D felony theft, which are related to donations from two Harrison County businesses
"From that, I'm sure there are going to be a lot more [charges] added from our county and other counties," Smith said. "There are legal guidelines for when one act of theft is one act of theft and when numerous acts of theft stand on their own. That is one of the things we have to determine with the prosecutor's office at the conclusion of the investigation. She could possibly be facing numerous other charges."
Smith said the investigation is ongoing.
Authorities are asking for anyone who may have donated to Applegate to contact HCSD at 812-738-2195.
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