Spain: Sus­pects in ill child char­ity scam spent $633,000

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

BARCELONA: A Span­ish cou­ple ar­rested for al­legedly ex­ploit­ing the rare ill­ness of their daughter in a char­ity scam spent al­most 600,000 Eu­ros ($633,000) of do­na­tions on a ritzy life­style, ac­cord­ing to Span­ish po­lice.

Court doc­u­ments is­sued by the in­ves­ti­gat­ing judge on Fri­day said that Fer­nando Blanco and Ma­garita Ga­rau spent nearly two-thirds of the over 900,000 Eu­ros ($950,000) they re­ceived in char­i­ta­ble do­na­tions on per­sonal ex­penses, in­clud­ing their rent, a car, travel and a col­lec­tion of lux­ury watches.

The cou­ple raised that money since 2009, when they es­tab­lished a char­ity in the name of their now 11-year-old daughter, Na­dia Nerea, who they said suf­fered from the rare dis­ease tri­choth­iodys­tro­phy.

The judge in the court in the north­ern Cata­lan town of Seu D’Urgell, where the cou­ple who were ar­rested Wed­nes­day lived, said po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tions in­di­cated ei­ther they had mis­rep­re­sented the se­ri­ous­ness of their daughter’s ill­ness or had in­vented it al­to­gether. The judge or­dered the girl to be re­moved from her par­ents’ cus­tody and placed in care of an aunt. “The cou­ple un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion ap­pears to have turned char­ity into their way of life,” the judge wrote.

Af­ter ques­tion­ing both par­ents, the judge kept the father in jail with­out the right to bail. The mother was re­leased. The cou­ple’s lawyer, Al­berto Martin, told Span­ish me­dia his clients de­nied any wrong­do­ing to the judge. Po­lice search­ing the fam­ily’s home found “a mas­sive amount of clothes and elec­tronic goods” and a col­lec­tion of watches worth around ‚Ǩ60,000 ($63,000). The po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­di­cates the cou­ple spent money raised for their daughter’s care on reg­u­lar ex­pen­di­tures at su­per­mar­kets, hard­ware stores, shop­ping malls, va­ca­tions, ho­tels, restau­rants and else­where.

Prior to his ar­rest, Blanco said in a re­cent tele­vised in­ter­view that he and his wife had “ex­ag­ger­ated” the se­ri­ous­ness of his daughter’s ill­ness to gen­er­ate in­ter­est in her case and asked for for­give­ness from peo­ple who had made do­na­tions.

Last week­end, the cou­ple posted a state­ment on their char­ity’s Facebook page say­ing they would return all the money they had re­ceived. Be­sides us­ing so­cial me­dia, the cou­ple had held events and made me­dia ap­pear­ances ask­ing for help to pay for their daughter’s med­i­cal costs.

The US Na­tional In­sti­tute for Health says tri­choth­iodys­tro­phy is a rare ge­netic dis­ease whose sever­ity can span from brit­tle hair in mild cases to in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­i­ties and even death. — AP

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