Brittany Ozarowski, a 21-year-old New York woman, was arraigned Thursday after she allegedly faked having cancer to solicit thousand of dollars in donations from unsuspecting donors.
According to police, Ozarowski was arrested April 1 as she stood outside a local supermarket, soliciting donations for cancer treatments she never required. Instead, police say, she was using the money to fund a rabid heroin addiction habit.
Investigators say Ozarowski has spent the last year soliciting financial support from her community, her family, business leaders and various online donors, claiming to be a victim of bone, brain, stomach, thyroid and ovarian cancers.
Ozarowski reportedly convinced area retailers to display a donation jar in their businesses, and erected a website so that donors could donate directly to her PayPal account. The website includes a heartbreaking account of a car accident that she ostensibly suffered and her ongoing bout with cancer.
The website, which has since been shut down, included the following excerpts:
“Let me begin by introducing myself, my name is Brittany and I am 20 years old. In March of 2011 I was in a terrible car accident where I sustained multiple injuries as follows: I shattered my right femoral head, fractured my right femur, fractured my pelvis, dislocated and fractured my S.I joint in my back, collapsed my right lung, had 20 staples in my head, fractured my L1, L3, and L5 in my spine and shattered my L2. I have nerve damage and severe muscle abnormalities throughout my body. In September of 2011 I was diagnosed with stage two ovarian cancer as well as stomach cancer. After multiple treatments of both radiation and chemotherapy I had beaten cancer as of December 2011.
I was cancer free until they had found a tumor on my left hip in February 2012. That is when I found out that I have bone cancer. The cancer has spread to my spine as well as my brain. So once again I was in need of radiation treatments as well as chemotherapy treatments. This time the medicine was much more expensive and my family had already liquidated all assets since September. I have tried to receive financial help from many different charities, catholic charities, cancer organizations, and organizations of all types for that matter. It is very hard to receive financial help. The treatments are about $33,000 each day and although my doctor has been incredible with helping my family financially I am still short. I have set up donation jars around my town in hopes of getting help from the community. Many places will not help with fundraising to individuals only organizations. I have very few options left and I am still in desperate need of treatments.”
The website then directed visitors to a PayPal link that has also been disabled. A temporary cache of the site can be found here.
“The truth is, she is a 21-year-old drug addict with four open narcotics cases,” said Suffolk County DA Thomas Spota. “We have strong evidence she forged doctors’ notes to avoid court appearances.”
Prosecutors also say Ozarowski’s grandmother gave her about $100,000 to help with cancer treatments after selling her home to move to Florida. Business leaders in the county also held fund raising events for her and ponied up large personal donations that added up to tens of thousands of dollars.
“The defendant perpetrated an absolutely despicable scam,” said Spota. “She has no conscience at all.”
“She broke my heart and she broke a lot of hearts,” said a pet store owner who helped raise $4,000 for Brittany’s purported medical expenses. The pet store owner, Liz Patricola, is a survivor of breast cancer.
Ozarowski was booked into the Suffolk County Jail and indicted Thursday on 24 counts of fraud. She is being held in lieu of $150,000 bond.