Woman Faked Cancer, Bilked Supporters for Thousands of Dollars
She shaved her head, plucked her eyebrows, starved herself to look like a cancer patient and tattooed "Won't Quit" on her hands. Then she founded a bogus cancer research charity and collected thousands of dollars in contributions.
Ashley Anne Kirilow, a 23-year-old Canadian, may have continued to scam people had her father not discovered her lies. "When I found out that she was taking people's money and it wasn't going to the University of Alberta as she had specified, it made me sick to my stomach," her father, Mike Kirilow, told "Good Morning America." When his daughter refused to come clean, he and a group of duped volunteers filed a police report.
In 2008, after Kirilow had a benign lump removed from her breast, she began telling people she had breast cancer. Her lies evolved: She said, alternately, that she had brain, liver, stomach and ovarian cancer and that she was dying. Over the course of a year, she called her divorced parents, both of whom she has had little contact with, to ask for money for chemotherapy treatments, which are covered under the Canadian system. Suspicious, her father and stepmother called the hospitals Kirilow said she'd been treated at, but not one had any record of her. Her biological mother, a former school bus driver, told the The Toronto Star, "The only thing she ever wanted from me was money, and I couldn't ever give it to her."
Meanwhile, Kirilow gave her friends two conflicting stories about her parents: In one, they were dead; in the other, they were drug addicts. She was alone and dying of cancer. She had no money.
"Obviously I wanted to do what I could to help her," 22-year-old Adam Catley told The Star.
He found her a free place to live and organized a musical benefit for her in September 2009. Guests paid a $20 cover charge, Catley's father donated the night's profits and his bar for the performance, Labatt Brewing Company donated beer and staff members handed over their tips. Kirilow walked away with $9,000.
Soon thereafter, Kirilow founded the bogus Change for the Cure, which asked people to donate pocket change toward cancer research at the University of Alberta. At local concerts, Kirilow left jars to collect the change. People in the Toronto music and skateboarding scenes, as well as local businesses, supported her cause. A Toronto charity, believing Kirilow was terminally ill, flew her to Disney World.
The main volunteers for Cancer for Change allege that Kirilow took in more than $20,000. Privately, Kirilow had accumulated more than $30,000 in credit card debt and had declared bankruptcy. No money collected has gone to cancer research.
When Kirilow's story flooded the Canadian media, Kirilow told reporters that she had borderline personality disorder. Her parents say that she saw therapists and psychiatrists but was not diagnosed with a mental illness. Her other stated reason for the hoax? She had an unhappy childhood, marred by her parents' bitter divorce, and she was lonely.
"She may have been lonely, but that's the least of her concerns," Dr. Neil I. Bernstein, author of "Treating the Unmanageable Adolescent: a Guide to Oppositional Defiant and Conduct Disorders," tells AOL Health.
Bernstein, who has never treated Kirilow, suspects that she suffers from a psychiatric illness. For someone with such symptoms, antisocial personality disorder is a likely diagnosis.
A person with antisocial personality disorder repeatedly breaks the law, disregards the safety of others and lies, steals or fights constantly. This person violates social norms and may enjoy taking advantage of the system. They feel neither guilt nor compassion but can be charming and personable.
"Prisons are filled with people like this," says Bernstein, who notes that while Kirilow isn't physically violent, she does seem to have a desperate need for attention. Kirilow often updated her Facebook profile to note that she was on her way to a chemotherapy treatment.
Antisocial personality disorder usually begins in childhood. In fact, Kirilow's father, Mike, told "GMA" that his daughter had been untrustworthy since a young age and that her criminal activity was unsurprising. "She's always manipulated people, manipulated situations to get what she wants," he said.
Kirilow's grandmother told The Star: "You couldn't trust anything she was saying." Her stepmother added that at age 16, Kirilow, who had left her biological mother's home to avoid following rules, "made this house a living hell." According to her stepmother, Kirilow persistently lied and stole from her siblings.
Usually, a confluence of genetics and environment create a person with antisocial personality disorder. "Environment is the way you're raised, and genetics is the deck you're dealt," says Bernstein. "The interaction of the two can create such a person." Kirilow's parents have confirmed to media outlets that they engaged in a messy custody dispute and that they had a dysfunctional relationship.
The treatment for antisocial personality disorder is psychotherapy. However, undergoing psychotherapy won't necessarily guarantee that such a person can change their behavior. "Can a criminal change?" asks Bernstein. "They have a higher recidivism rate than people with other kinds of difficulties. Is it likely? It depends on the treatment."
Another possibility is that Kirilow is suffering from bipolar disorder and, during certain episodes, may feel particularly grandiose.
Kirilow -- with her hair now grown out -- is currently in police custody and facing several counts of fraud. Her parents will not pay her bail.
Just wow. What would make her think that divorce and unhappiness were a reasonable excuse for stealing thousands of dollars from innocent people.
She wanted to be noticed? Then do something great. This really pisses me off.
She stole money not only from the pockets of caring people, but from foundations and research centers that are devoted to helping those that do have cancer. That money could have been donated and helped research.
This disgusts me.
If you're reading this... You are the Resistance
I can't help but feel sorry for the people who were volunteering under her cause. They had all the best of intentions, and now that's she's been busted it comes off to people like these people were co-conspirators or something and they're receiving death threats.
Talk about the road to hell being paved with good intentions. Fuck.
I'm not going to post about the woman responsible for biking thousands of dollars wasted into this cause. Instead, I just hope people whom create these charities learn a lesson from this: mainly know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the person they are helping absolutely needs the help they deserve.
I mean I hate to change the hate finger on this one. But this is a step in the right direction to get people to really open their eyes and look at all the idiots in this world. People can do anything. Hell, every member here in this forum can make money off of a sobby story somehow.
And I am not saying the woman is not guilty for anything. Hell, she should be fined! But I just want everyone to know that charity organizations / people just being kind hearted should do their research before using their energy / money into it. Hell, why do you think I am a Mason? I already donated money to the Shriner's hospital, not to mention raised over two grand for a little girl who had vaginal cancer.
If you want to donate or do charity work around your area. Contact me, and I will be sure your work goes into the correct hands.
Exactly. This hurts real charities in the long run because most people would rather not do the research and just assume that they are all shams. Kinda like people assume all homeless folks asking for money will spend it on booze/drugs.
I am in agreement. Most people do already think that charities are scams. They have their right to--most of them don't provide any proof. This just ruined everything that the real charities work so hard for. It will make running charities at restaurants and such even harder.
Not only did she rob from those who donated to her, but she robbed from those that the charities are for.