GoFundMe’s most shocking con?

A MOTHER accused of faking chronic illness in her toddler son was so convincing she managed to get doctors to perform

gofundmes-most-shocking-con photo 1

Monika Burgett (left) is on trial for faking chronic illness in her son Jackson (right) to raise more than US$40,000 in donations from two crowdfunding pages

A MOTHER accused of faking chronic illness in her toddler son was so convincing she managed to get doctors to perform brain surgery on him — not once but twice.

Monika Burgett also conned doctors at Ohio’s Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center into believing that she was a physician, prosecutors say.

The 39-year-old Texan went on trial last week charged with child abuse, felonious assault and telecommunications fraud. On Tuesday, Dr Robert Shapiro told the court how Ms Burgett had persuaded her son Jackson’s heath care team to treat the then three-year-old with opioid drugs, including Oxycodone and methadone,

Cincinnati.com reported.

gofundmes-most-shocking-con photo 2

Monika Burgett listens to testimony during her child abuse trial, which started last week. Picture: AP Source: Facebook

While all this was going on, Ms Burgett was using a heartbreaking photograph of Jackson with his head and eyebrows shaved and a feeding tube in his nose to solicit thousands of dollars in donations via two crowdfunding pages.

Doctors eventually came to believe she was lying about the boy’s symptoms and reported suspected child abuse to Hamilton County Job and Family Services. By that stage, however, Jackson had already undergone a series of “unnecessary and excessive” treatments and procedures at multiple facilities after his mother shopped him around hospitals in different states.

“This little … child was living a life of sedation — of tubes stuck in his face and nose, tubes in his intestines and stomach,” assistant prosecutor Anne Flanagan said in her opening statements at Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.

gofundmes-most-shocking-con photo 3

Nutritionist and environmental scientist Allison Reyna, (left), and Monika Burgett (right) started Cheer Up Buttercups, an 'expert, advice service for mothers'. Ms Reya believed Ms Burgett was a doctor. Source: Facebook

Jackson was removed from Ms Burgett’s custody in March 2016 and placed in foster care, the court heard. Within a week, the boy, now five years old, was thriving.

After being cared for at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital without his mother’s input, he was “running around the room from the bed to the couch” with spaghetti sauce “around his mouth,” Dr Shapiro testified. “He needed no pain medication whatsoever,” said the doctor. “He ate like a champ.”

Incredibly, Ms Burgett had also managed to convince family members, including her husband and sister, that she was a doctor. She even co-founded a trusted blog for mothers who are physicians called Cheer Up Buttercups with nutritionist and environmental scientist Allison Reyna, who also believed her lies.

“They believed it for many years,” Ms Flanagan told the court.

gofundmes-most-shocking-con photo 4

Monika Burgett is on trial for faking chronic illness in her son Jackson (above) to raise more than US$40,000 in donations from two crowdfunding pages. Source: Facebook

The defendant’s lie extended to two GoFundMe pages created on behalf of the child. Among the false claims, according to testimony, was that he had a brain tumour. Ms Burgett had Jackson’s head and eyebrows shaved, took photos of him and posted them on the pages, Ms Flanagan said.

The GoFundMe pages amassed approximately US$40,000 (A$51,000) in donations.

Ms Burgett took Jackson to hospitals in Austin, Dallas and Houston before bringing him to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in 2015. He was also hospitalised in Tennessee.

Ms Flanagan said that based on Ms Burgett’s claims, her husband and others thought “that this little boy had cancer and was terminal.”

Ms Burgett’s legal team tells a different story. According to her lawyer MJ Hugan, Jackson had suffered from numerous medical problems since his extremely premature birth at 25 weeks. She said the child was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder, which caused a growth inside his mouth and doctors had authorised the treatments and procedures.

gofundmes-most-shocking-con photo 5

Jackson, now aged five, is now thriving in the care of his father. Source: Facebook

Ms Burgett had sought treatment at multiple hospitals because her son’s medical issues were complex and because doctors had made errors, Ms Hugan said. A case in point was when staff at one Texas hospital failed to recognise a brain injury in her son following a car crash. Ms Burgett had taken him to another hospital “where he was properly diagnosed and underwent two brain surgeries”.

“What she was trying to do, is get care — get the right care for her child,” Ms Hugan told jurors in her opening statements.

She acknowledged her client had lied about being a doctor. Her previous husband is a doctor and she had been with him during medical school.

“At some point, she adopted the idea she was a physician,” Ms Hugan told jurors.

Juvenile court documents obtained by Cincinnati media show that as of mid June, Jackson has been living with his father in Texas.

    Share on
    Article GoFundMe’s most shocking con? compiled by www.news.com.au