A New York woman has been arrested for allegedly running a fundraising scam in which she used the image and story of a little boy who died from cancer earlier this year to con people out of money, officials said.
Tracey Jacqueline Weir, 35, of Yonkers, is accused of selling phony raffle tickets to support children’s cancer research in the name of Nolan Scully, a 4-year-old boy who lost his battle with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare soft-tissue cancer, in February.
The Maryland preschooler’s mother documented his 15-month fight against cancer on the Facebook page “Nolan Strong,” a moniker the tickets also included.
A photo of Nolan was placed on the back of the bogus tickets, which were being sold for $25 each and promised a chance at a 70-inch television, Apple iPad or $200 Visa gift card to be raffled off at the Aisling Irish Center in Yonkers.
But the Aisling Irish Center had no such raffle planned and contacted Yonkers Police about the scam.
Throughout the course of their investigation, officers identified several victims who bought tickets
“She was good,” one man who said he was scammed wrote online. “Nearly had me crying and as far as tickets, as good-looking and genuine ticket as I ever seen.”
Witnesses and victims were allegedly able to identify the woman who sold them the tickets and on Thursday, Weir was arrested and charged with one count of scheming to defraud, a felony.
She has not yet entered a plea and is due in court Aug. 25.
InsideEdition.com’s request for comment to the Legal Aid Society of Westchester County, which is representing Weir, was not immediately returned.
Those in the community were relieved to learn someone had been arrested for the alleged crime and took to social media to express their frustration that it had happened in the first place.
“Using an innocent child for financial gain is disgusting,” one person wrote to Ruth Scully, Nolan Scully’s mother, on the “Nolan Strong” Facebook page. “We will continue to stay Nolan Strong for you and your family. May God continue to carry you in his arms.”
“Glad they caught the person behind this," another "Nolan Strong" supporter posted. "She ought to be so ashamed of herself. It is sickening what people do and don't think how it affects a family. I am sorry your family had to go through this. Keeping you in my prayers!”
Nolan’s story first gained traction when his mother, Ruth Scully, shared “before-and-after” photographs showing what was left in the wake of her son’s death.
In the first photo, Nolan can be seen lying on the bathmat so that he would not be alone while his mother showered.
In the second image, taken two months after Nolan lost his battle with cancer, the mat where the boy once laid his head is empty.
"Two months," his mother wrote as she shared the images to Facebook. "Two months since I've held you in my arms, heard how much you loved me, kissed those sweetie 'pie' lips. Two months since we've snuggled. Two months of pure absolute Hell."
Ruth Scully originally created the “Nolan Strong” Facebook page to honor her son, fundraise for his treatment and raise awareness of the need for further research and a cure.
She took to the page to express how furious the scam made her, writing: “First and foremost, knowing that any of Nolan's ‘Friends’ could potentially have been taken advantage of by this person is saddening. Thankfully, most people do not think and act like this person, but those that do, I urge them to visit their local Pediatric Oncology Unit or sit and have a thirty-minute conversation with a bereaved mother [who] watched their child suffer and die in front of their eyes.
“Walk the floor of the Pediatric Oncology Unit and witness some of the Hell these precious babies have to endure, some right from birth... my guess is you would probably think twice next time,” she continued.
She also noted that crimes such as this make people hesitant to donate to worthwhile causes.
“This impacts funding and research for Childhood Cancer which in turn affects thousands of children and families waiting for a cure!!” she wrote. “You are potentially taking money away from research that could save children's lives!! I will spend the rest of my life helping spread awareness and raising funds for research to help stop this horrible disease!
“Nolan deserved more. Nolan deserved better medical treatment options. Nolan deserved more research. Nolan deserved to live a longer life with his family. Nolan deserved better than to be stuck on the back of a criminal's fake fundraising ticket.”