Investigators say a mother scammed strangers with a sob story: Her 7-year-old daughter had terminal cancer and desperately needed money for treatment.
Juanita Ortiz Garcia, though, wasn't just lying to strangers. She lied to her daughter too.
The 46-year-old Mission woman shaved her daughter's head to look the part, said Sgt. J.P. Rodriguez, a spokesman for the Hidalgo County Sheriff's Office.
Garcia also told her 7-year-old daughter she had terminal cancer and had just months to live.
Child Protective Services discovered the scam, removed the 7-year-old girl from her home and called the Sheriff's Office.
"During questioning, Garcia admitted to investigators that her daughter had never been diagnosed with cancer, and that she had obtained monetary donations from various persons," according to a news release from the Sheriff's Office.
Investigators charged Garcia with exploitation of a child, a third-degree felony. Exactly how much money Garcia received remains unknown.
"We don't want to discourage people to participate in those fundraisers, but we do want them to be cautious," Rodriguez said, adding that people should try to confirm information before donating money to strangers.
Garcia remains at the Hidalgo County jail and couldn't be reached for comment.