Teacher admits faking cancer


NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (AP) – A teacher pleaded guilty Wednesday to faking cancer and collecting more than $35,000 in donations from friends and colleagues, money that prosecutors said she spent on an island vacation, big-screen television and other items.

Prosecutors said Heather Faria, 27, formerly a special education teacher at Dighton-Rehoboth Regional High School, began telling people she had stomach cancer in 2003. Colleagues and friends held several fundraising benefits after she told them she could not afford to pay for both the expensive medical treatments and food.

Faria pleaded guilty to six charges at her arraignment in New Bedford Superior Court on Wednesday.

, including five counts of larceny over $250 and one count of gross fraud. She will be sentenced June 15.

Ryan Phelan, a spokesman for Bristol District Attorney Paul Walsh, said prosecutors believe Faria spent the money on a trip to St. Martin, a television, jewelry and cellphones.

Faria’s attorney, Francis O’Boy, said Faria initially believed she had cancer after a doctor recommended she get a lump on her upper arm checked. O’Boy said she continued to accept donations after she learned several months later that she did not have cancer.

“She certainly is sorrowful that she let all these people down,” O’Boy said. “She realizes the error of what she did, and she really knows that it will be difficult for them to forgive her.”

Faria resigned her teaching position at the end of the school year last June.

AP-ES-04-12-06 1440EDT