A southern Minnesota man claimed he was on the verge of dying of cancer, held fundraising events and started an online campaign that cheated donors out of more than $22,000, which he spent mostly on playing a video game, darts competitions, and drinking and drugs, according to authorities.
Jeremiah J. Smith, 37, of Faribault, has been charged in Rice County District Court with theft by swindle, a felony that could mean several years in prison if convicted. Smith was charged by summons.
Court records do not list an attorney for Smith, and he was unavailable to respond to the allegations. He and his wife filed for personal bankruptcy in 2011.
According to the criminal complaint:
In late 2015, Smith claimed he had cancer and had anywhere from six to 24 months to live. He started a campaign on gofundme.com and drew nearly $7,000 in pledges, which Smith collected.
In February 2016, a fundraiser at Biff's Sports Bar & Grill in Spring Lake Park raised more than $6,500, and a second benefit in Northfield that included an auction, food and door prizes took in about $9,000.
Roughly $4,000 went toward "outstanding bills," read the complaint, which was not more specific. Smith spent the rest on the "Clash of Clans" video game, drinking, entering dart tournaments and marijuana.
Smith's wife told authorities that she never saw any bill or other medical record of him having cancer.
Police confronted Smith, and he stuck to his claim and said he would turn over medical records. While still waiting for the documentation, detectives came to his home. Smith spoke of the cancer spreading from his colon to his kidneys and bladder, and he revealed the name of the doctor he said was treating him.
The doctor told detectives that he saw Smith for attention deficit disorder and removed noncancerous cells from his abdominal walls.