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June 30, 2022

Former educator sentenced for cancer fundraising fraud

Amanda Riley to serve 60 months in prison

Former Gilroy educator Amanda Christine Riley was sentenced in federal court in San Jose May 3 to 60 months in prison after pleading guilty to wire fraud in connection with a scheme to solicit more than $105,000 in donations from individuals to help her pay for cancer treatments she never needed nor received.

The sentence was handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman, according to U.S. Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Mark H. Pearson.

Riley previously worked as the principal at Pacific Point Elementary School in west Gilroy. She worked for the school for about three years and resigned in July 2020, just before federal authorities charged her with felony wire fraud.

Hinds said that beginning in 2012, Riley, who was living in San Jose at the time, began to falsely report that she had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer.  Although she was not actually ill, Riley carefully cultivated a social media presence, using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and a blog.

Prosecutors said Riley used her presence on these sites to “document” her nonexistent medical condition, and to aggressively solicit donations, supposedly to cover her medical expenses. In truth, Riley had no medical expenses. The donations she received were deposited into her personal bank accounts and used to pay her living expenses. 

In total, the government identified 349 individuals and entities who made contributions with a total value of $105,513 toward Riley’s fabricated medical expenses.

Information provided at the sentencing hearing showed that Riley went to great lengths to maintain her deception: She shaved her head to make it appear as if she were receiving chemotherapy; she falsified medical records; she forged physicians’ letters and medical certifications; she convinced family members to echo her false claims; she gave materially false testimony in several legal proceedings; and she attacked anyone who suggested she was malingering (going so far as to sue one of them).

Hinds said Riley’s scheme continued from 2012 until 2019, when it was uncovered by an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service and the San Jose Police Department.

Riley was charged by criminal complaint in July 2020 and pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud on Oct. 12. In addition to her 60-month prison sentence, Freeman ordered that Riley pay restitution in the amount of $105,513. The sentence also included a three-year period of supervision.

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