For additional articles covering OUR, please go to ACJ Investigates- Derailed: Operation Underground Railroad
Over the past few weeks, we were piecing a story together regarding the latest $100,000 Coco Berthmann fundraising campaign. Since her arrest on suspected fraud, it looks like a new one is in the works. Even though it’s such a twisted and heartbreaking story- light, hope and courage ultimately comes from of this.
Coco Berthmann’s ruse is up. Not only did she fabricate her sensational Lifetime movie network human trafficking survivor story but fabricated and tried to fundraise for a bogus cancer diagnosis.
Just one thing I’d like to say with today’s developments.
The real heroes and the light in all this madness are the victims of Coco Berthmann. Her mother and sister. The families she stayed with that she leached off of and scammed. Those that were sucked into her human trafficking scam that was destroyed by Lynn Packer and now her bogus cancer diagnosis. Last month she was panhandling on social media for funds to adopt a dog.
Ultimately, these people with loving hearts who in the midst of a pandemic put up their hard-earned cash to help someone in need. People who believed that another suffered so much in life and then was diagnosed with cancer. Often, victims of fraud are in denial, which is why they will put up more money because it’s something they now have to believe in- they’re invested in it. Then once they realize they’ve been scammed, they’re just too embarrassed and ashamed to speak up. The past few weeks I’ve got to hear some of their stories regarding Coco Berthmann and another human trafficking survivor fraud case I’m working on. Prior to that, it was those who had donated and feel they were misled and lied to by Tim Ballard and Operation Underground Railroad.There is nothing to be ashamed of. Your kindness and love for your fellow human being is the light, the redeeming factor in the midst of a disgusting scam. Your courage to come forward to tell your story, whether it’s just to get it off your chest in confidence, to tell the world or coming forward to law enforcement is inspiring. It shows others that there is nothing to be ashamed of.
They’ve done nothing wrong.
My hope is that Coco Berthmann’s arrest doesn’t discourage them. There are legitimate people in need. The world needs more people in the world willing to step up like this in some way.
Yesterday I had a conversation a producer interested in getting the message out to protect a large audience. Our fear was, that Berthmann would go on for years because not only is it difficult to prove, but those getting scammed are so invested they are in denial or too ashamed to come forward. We examined similar cases and some scams went on for years, one with nearly an entire church congregation and many others still donating after she was arrested. It had turned into a major conspiracy theory that dragged out.
The South Jordan Police Department and Salt Lake County District Attorney wasted no time in putting an end to Coco Berthmann’s latest charade.
Berthmann is just one of many scam artists that is exploiting the human sex trafficking craze. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s not “one of the fastest growing forms of fraud”. Not only do you have these professional “victims” such as Berthmann and Elizabeth Fraiser, but these militant anti-human sex trafficking organizations like Operation Underground Railroad, which I’ve been covering over two years.
The clock is ticking.
SOUTH JORDAN — A Utah woman and advocate for human rights and fighting human trafficking has been arrested and accused of faking a cancer diagnosis and collecting thousands of dollars for medical expenses.
Coco Berthmann, 28, was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail on Wednesday for investigation of communications fraud. No formal charges have been filed against her.
Berthmann claims her family trafficked her for the first 15 years of her life until she ran away from home and has shared her story in multiple public settings.
Police began investigating Berthmann at the beginning of February after receiving a tip that she “was falsely stating she had stage 3 mantle cell lymphoma cancer in order to obtain funds for treatment,” according to a police booking affidavit. “The complaint has stated Coco has been a habitual liar throughout the years, claiming Coco’s mother was sending people to the United States to kill her, she had had a stage 4 cancer which was miraculously cured, and she had been raped on many occasions.”
Police learned of a GoFundMe account that had raised more than $10,000 as of Thursday. The fundraising effort — started by one of Berthmann’s friends with the title, “Help Coco Fight Cancer” — states she has an “aggressive cancer and her prognosis is unknown at this point, but the average survival rate is 30% with a life expectancy of only 2-5 years.”
Detectives questioned the friend who started the fundraiser and were told that Berthmann had approached her and showed her medical records indicating she had been diagnosed with cancer in January, the affidavit states. Police say Berthmann did not ask her friend to start the GoFundMe campaign, but “she had expressed financial concerns to the creator of the account due to the treatments being expensive.”
A detective contacted Berthmann by phone, “due to her being too weak to meet in person.”
“Coco stated she had been diagnosed with mantle cell lymphoma and was being treated at the Huntsman Cancer Institute,” South Jordan police wrote in the affidavit. She then allegedly said she left the Huntsman Center three weeks ago because she could not be treated with chemotherapy, and was working with specialists in Alaska and Chicago on alternative treatments.
The detective asked Berthmann if she had any medical records to substantiate her claims. “Coco stated she did have records and would be sending me a copy via email,” according to the affidavit. The officer “waited to be emailed the medical records from Coco. Coco never followed through with the email.”
Police then served warrants at the Huntsman Cancer Institute and the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing to determine what medications had been prescribed to Berthmann. They learned that Berthmann had never been a patient at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, the affidavit says.
“Furthermore the only medication that had been prescribed to Coco was anxiety medication,” police wrote.
Utah human rights advocate arrested, accused of faking cancer diagnosis | KSL.com