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Bill Lackey

Bill Lackey has always enjoyed photography and writing, so photojournalism seemed like a great way to combine both for him.

He was born and raised in Dayton where he graduated from Northridge High School. He graduated from Eastern Kentucky University.

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Faking cancer about affection more than money, psychiatrist says

Those who fake illness fall into different categories according to psychiatrists:

Malingering: Not a mental disorder. The person is consciously lying for personal gain.

Factitious disorder: The person is consciously lying, but their reason may be unknown. They seek emotional gratification and may have a compulsion or addiction to inventing illness.

Munchausen’s syndrome: The most severe 10 percent of factitious disorders. Their whole life is a quest for unwarranted medical treatment.

Psychosomatic illness: The person unconsciously creates symptoms for unknown reasons and truly believes they are experiencing them.

Source: Dr. Marc Feldman’s website, munchausen.com and Journal of Psychiatric Practice

Cancer fraud by the numbers:

$31,494: Teresa and Robert Milbrandt were ordered t0 pay back 65 people and businesses.

$5,750: Michelle Mundy was ordered to pay in restitution.

More than $1,000: Allegedly stolen by Heather Gaus. Prosecutors are still determining the total amount.

Cancer fraud by the numbers:

$31,494: Teresa and Robert Milbrandt were ordered t0 pay back 65 people and businesses.

$5,750: Michelle Mundy was ordered to pay in restitution.

More than $1,000: Allegedly stolen by Heather Gaus. Prosecutors are still determining the total amount.

Local communities opened their hearts — and their wallets — in support of at least five Ohio women they believed to be coping with devastating forms of cancer in recent years only to learn it all may have been lies.

Each woman has been criminally prosecuted because she accepted money from fundraisers, but what actually motivates these elaborate deceptions is often more complicated than financial gain. They could be among hundreds of thousands of Americans who suffer from what mental health professionals call factitious disorders — the most severe form is commonly known as Munchausen’s syndrome.

Patients with factitious disorder feign, exaggerate or actually self-induce illness for emotional gratification, according to Dr. Marc Feldman, a psychiatrist who has worked with fake cancer cases since 1988 and is author of “Playing Sick?: Untangling the Web of Munchausen Syndrome, Munchausen by Proxy, Malingering, and Factitious Disorder.”

The most recent local example involves a Champaign County, Ohio, woman accused of lying about having inoperable brain cancer. A grand jury indicted Heather Gaus, 34, on May 7 on theft and receiving stolen property charges.

“This is not that new, though I’m hearing about more and more cases over time,” Feldman said. “It seemed to spike upward with the advent of social media. That became a new conduit for people to manufacture tales about illness.”

The American Psychiatric Association now estimates about 1 percent of all patients admitted to general hospitals have factitious disorders, adding significant costs to the healthcare system.

“Multiple that by billions and billions of dollars spent on health care and it’s a much bigger problem than people have acknowledged to date,” Feldman said.

Dramatic illness

Patients are usually women, young to middle-age, and commonly express some sort of emotional neglect or even abuse during childhood, he said. Cancer is the most common factitious disease.

“I think because it’s such a dramatic illness,” Feldman said. “It’s common enough that people don’t think to question it. And also, if you survive cancer it has a really positive connotation that you’re a fighter and a survivor.”

Gaus is accused of collecting more than $1,000 from a cancer fundraiser in her name, although prosecutors said they still don’t know how much was donated in total. She also received more than $1,000 in online donations through the site youcaring.com and thousands more from another benefit, event organizers said.

Gaus pleaded not guilty in Champaign County Common Pleas Court Friday and is free on her own recognizance pending trial. In court, she declined to answer questions from the Springfield News-Sun.

It can be difficult to distinguish if someone is lying for personal gain or because they have a factitious disorder. Typically people are seeking care and concern they feel unable to get in any other way, Feldman said.

“It’s often confused with or overlaps with malingering, where people do the same thing, but it’s not a mental disorder and they’re doing it for tangible gain like money or evasion of criminal prosecution, narcotic drugs or disability payments.”

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Other prosecutions

Financial gain is what has landed some of the hoaxers in prison.

In 2003, another Champaign County woman, Teresa L. Milbrandt, was convicted of grand theft and child endangering after a nine-month hoax in which she said her then 7-year-old daughter was dying of cancer.

The girl was given sleeping pills, had her head shaved and was made to wear a surgical mask. She was also placed in counseling to prepare her for death, according to court documents. Fundraising efforts brought in more than $30,000. Milbrandt was sentenced to more than six years in prison. Her husband Robert was also convicted of child endangering and theft and sentenced to nearly five years in prison even though he maintained that he had no part in the hoax and believed his daughter had cancer.

In 2013, Michelle Mundy of Springfield pleaded guilty to felony theft for lying about having lymphoma and taking money raised in her honor. She was sentenced to 90 days in jail and two years of community control, then ordered to pay $5,750 in restitution.

Neither Milbrandt nor Mundy could be reached for comment.

Last year, Emily Creno, 32, of Utica in central Ohio, grabbed headlines when she was sentenced to 18 months in prison for theft and child endangering for pretending her son was dying of cancer. She shaved her 5-year-old’s head and made him undergo more than 20 blood tests and 150 hours of inpatient EEG monitoring, according to the Columbus Dispatch. The boy was also prescribed medication for seizures he didn’t have.

Creno was ordered to pay back nearly $3,000.

In April, Dayton-native Meaghan Hudson was indicted on several felony charges in California alleging she lied about having multiple myeloma and accepted more than $5,000 in donations. Her high school friends held a fundraiser last year at Poelking Lanes in Dayton and flew her in for the event.

Appearing on “Dr. Phil” on Monday, she echoed what other hoaxers have said — it wasn’t about the money; she just wanted attention and love from her family.

“I lied to get access to something that I didn’t have. That being love or attention,” Hudson said. “I didn’t feel like I could go to anyone or had that love and attention that I might have needed at that time. That set the course for many years of feeling alone or lying for attention.”

She said once the lie was out, she kept going because she felt like she had to. When the donation check from her GiveForward.com page arrived, she said it felt too late to say anything.

“Any material gains are unwanted or unsolicited, but have to be accepted to keep the game going,” Feldman said.

Mundy admitted to detectives that she deposited the checks she received from fundraisers and used some of the cash for personal use, but according to a court affidavit, she didn’t initially lie to make money.

“She was looking for the attention and had no idea that people would do fundraisers on her behalf,” the affidavit said.

During her sentencing, she told the court, “It was never about money. It was about a woman searching for affection.”

The prosecution in Milbrandt’s case painted her as purposefully deceitful and a career criminal who lied to pay for a gambling habit. She had previous convictions for stealing a credit card, passing bad checks and receiving stolen property.

Talking to reporters from prison in 2004, however, she told a different story about doing it all to save her marriage.

‘‘I knew how much he cared about (her) and if she’s sick, I thought, he’s not going to leave us. I just said she had cancer and next thing I know, people were giving me money,’’ she told the Columbus Dispatch.

Creno also cited saving her marriage as motivation to lie about her son’s cancer.

Slap in the face

For the people who get taken in by these stories, the reason behind the deceit may be of little consequence.

“To lie to us is a slap in the face,” said Tony Groves, owner of the Woodstock Bar and Grill, which hosted a fundraiser for Gaus in 2013. “That is money that could have gone to help someone that did have cancer.”

Urbana resident Heather Thurman was in first grade with Milbrandt’s daughter during that cancer hoax.

“Why would you think of anything, cancer specifically, to do a fraud because there are many people out there who are dealing with it and it’s very sad,” Thurman said.

For those genuinely battling the disease and shouldering its financial burdens, that fraud can worsen their pain and make it more difficult to get help.

“It’s wrong and they should be in jail,” said Richard Kelly of Springfield. “Even if I didn’t have cancer I wouldn’t understand.”

Kelly is currently undergoing radiation treatment at Springfield Regional Cancer Center for prostate cancer while his 17-year-old son is preparing for chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant to treat leukemia at Dayton Children’s Hospital. The family is making numerous trips between Springfield and Dayton and living on one income.

“The more (hoaxes) happen, there are less resources out there,” he said.

Hearing about these cases makes him wary of giving money to someone claiming they need help with medical bills.

Consumer advocates agree there is little people can do to determine if someone is lying about a medical diagnosis because of federal privacy laws.

“Unless the lies become fairly obvious, there probably isn’t very much people can do,” Feldman said. “We don’t want to become so cynical that we start doubting every cancer story we hear and questioning patients in ways that could be really hurtful.”

Dozens of websites offer the ability to solicit donations from friends, family and total strangers. Most come with a disclaimer that they don’t vet the veracity of solicitations and warn donors to only give money to people they know personally.

Giving to established cancer charities is also encouraged, but those too need to be vetted.

Four sham cancer charities run by a family in Arizona and Tennessee were charged last week by the Federal Trade Commission and law enforcement in all 50 states for allegedly bilking $187 million from donors.

Cancer Fund of America, Cancer Support Services Inc., Children’s Cancer Fund of America, the Breast Cancer Society and their operators are accused of spending less than 3 percent of that money on helping cancer patients while the rest went to pay professional fundraisers and buy extravagant trips, vehicles, gym memberships, Jet Ski outings, dating website subscriptions, luxury cruises, and tickets to concerts for employees and family members.

Report: These are the gift cards people want this holiday season

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Gift cards remain the top requested gift for eight consecutive years, reports personal finance website GOBankingRates.com.

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In a new report, the finance website surveyed gift card options from 30 major retailers — using 10 factors — to rank the 10 best and five worst retail gift cards for 2015.

“Gift cards can make it much easier to get through your holiday shopping list, but our study shows that not all gift cards are winners,” said Elyssa Kirkham, lead reporter on the GOBankingRates study, in a release. “The best gift cards stood out by offering a convenient and cheap way to give with features like free shipping or the option to send a gift card digitally. Some retailers even reward customers who buy and use their gift cards.”

GOBankingRates.com considered criteria including purchase fees, expiration dates, reward options, balance requirements and shipping options in creating the ranking list, according to a press release.

Best Gift Cards of 2015:

  1. Nordstrom
  2. Amazon
  3. Walmart
  4. Starbucks
  5. Lowe’s
  6. Macy’s
  7. JCPenney
  8. Target
  9. Toys“R”Us
  10. Best Buy

Worst Gift Cards of 2015:

  1. MasterCard
  2. American Express
  3. Ikea
  4. eBay
  5. H&M

Read more here.

Gold coin valued at $1,200 dropped in Salvation Army bucket

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The Salvation Army in Springfield, Ohio hopes an unusual donation will inspire the community to give back this holiday season.

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On Nov. 25, someone dropped a gold coin wrapped in a $100 bill into the charity’s kettle outside a local Kroger supermarket, Springfield Salvation Army Resource Development Coordinator Ryan Ray said.

The 1-ounce pure gold coin is a 1978 South African Krugerrand and is valued at about $1,200, Ray said.

“It seems like every year we’re surprised with what’s put into our kettle,” he said. “We have no hint of who did this, which kind of makes it cool.”

The organization says that for every dollar donated to the Salvation Army in Clark County in Ohio, 83 cents goes back to the community.

According to Ray, it is the biggest fundraiser by the Salvation Army each year, and the goal is to bring in about $130,000.

So far, the Springfield chapter has raised more than $40,000.

“We’re relying on the community to maybe dig a little deeper and kind of make up for the loss,” Ray said, comparing the funds to the amount raised last year.

Larry Jones Sr., a Springfield man who donated at the same Kroger where the gold coin was dropped, said he’s benefited from the services the charity provides.

“Once my daughter went to their martial arts program,” Jones said. “You never know when you might need help or support from the Salvation Army.”

Here's how to get a $1 sub at Jimmy John's

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How does a $1 sub sound to you?

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You'll have the chance to get a $1 sub at participating Jimmy John's locations on Thursday as part of its Customer Appreciation Day.

The deal will be available in-store only from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday, April 21.

What sandwiches are eligible for the $1 deal?

  • Sandwiches #1-#6, BLT and Slims are eligible

For more info, visit Jimmy John's Customer Appreciation Day FAQs.

Legendary Ohio Players member dies

A Dayton, Ohio, funk music pioneer has died.

Ohio Players bassist Marshall "Rock" Jones died in Houston on Friday , his daughters Donna Williams and Charlotte Phillips confirmed. 

"We appreciate all of the support and prayers,” Williams said. “We lost not only a father, a grandfather and an uncle, we lost an icon to the community and an icon to his family.”

James "Diamond" Williams,  the Ohio Players' leader, said Jones will be missed. 

“He was inventive, and he was creative.  He was a great musician,” Williams said. “Marshall Jones contributed greatly, and we will miss him.”

He was 75. 

Jones was with the Ohio Players during the height of the legendary band’s success. 

He was a member when the group started in Dayton in 1959 as the Ohio Untouchables.

Williams said Jones had battled cancer and had suffered a recent stroke. 

From their beginnings in Dayton, The Ohio Players gained international acclaim with a long list of hits that include "Fire," "Love Rollercoaster," "I Wanna be Free," "Pain," "Funky Worm," "Skin Tight," "Honey" and "Sweet Sticky Thing."

Read more here.

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