San Jose Woman Admits to Getting $100k in Online Donations for Bogus Illness

This story has been updated to include information about Amanda Riley's background.

A former Gilroy educator pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud for soliciting donations from individuals to help her pay for cancer treatments she did not need nor received, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Amanda Christine Riley admitted to purposely deceiving people into thinking she had Hodgkin’s lymphoma in order to receive monetary donations from 2013 to 2019, says a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office Northern District of California.

Riley, now 36, was a resident of San Jose at the time of the fraud. She 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.

In 2012, Riley posted on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, along with a personal blog, to follow her fake journey in receiving cancer treatment. She would post photos of her medication, hospital visits and shared her difficulties with chemotherapy. Riley also shaved her head to make it seem like she was receiving cancer treatment.

When people donated to her fundraising page, the funds would go to Riley’s bank account, not for cancer treatment, according to authorities. Riley said she received $106,272 in donations from her fake illness.

Riley’s sentencing is scheduled for February 2022. She faces up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.



  1. The bigger story which should be told is…How did Ms. Riley get “busted” for her creative fund-raising gambit?

    David S. Wall

  2. I really disapprove of these sorts of applications of federal law. This is not the sort of thing these laws were intended to interdict.

    I won’t dismiss them as “victimless” crimes, even though they are, in the sense that the victims willingly gave of their money voluntarily, and not under any coercion, force, or fear.

    And I believe that these capricious prosecutions represent an arbitrary application of law that represents a vanishingly small problem not worthy of federal attention whilst ignoring endemic ones that occur on a far greater scale in perpetuity across the country.

    Because, under the same legal theory, the government should be over-zealously prosecuting and threatening with draconian punishments, all of the many street beggars who falsely claim to be homeless/indigent/veterans/family heads/sick/disabled, via their signs. Many intersections in citiyes and towns across the US are staffed on a regular basis by professional beggars, many of whom are NOT actually poor or needy. This is a problem at least 1000 times as prevalent and probably 10,000 times the magnitude of this woman’s fake fundraiser.

    But due to the federal law, this scam doesn’t qualify under federal law because it isn’t using electronic communications. In every other respect, it is no different. Not in the falseness of the claims, the intent, or the outcome. In fact, some fake street beggars are raking in an annual haul in excess of what she obtained over the course of seven years.

    Fake beggary is a chronic problem that has been documented in history and literature for hundreds, even thousands of years, due to the natural tendencies of humans to be conniving and avaricious and deceitful in order to take advantage of the natural (and artificially induced – mostly through organized religion – which is another major scam that involves telling lies to people to persuade them to willingly part with their money – don’t get me started on that)…. tendencies towards compassion, charity, and altruism.

    This is essentially the human condition – opposite forces of human nature which are endlessly contesting for dominance and equilibrium. This simply isn’t a problem any law can remedy. These sorts of social ills have their genesis in the realm of the make believe – in the mind – where laws have no force.

    If you get scammed by fake charities, then that should be a signal that you didn’t do any work to verify the legitimacy of the charity. And a better question, is why you think giving your money to these things is a proper course of action? Are you doing it because you genuinely support the mission or simply because you feel better about yourself? And to that extent, if you ARE doing it to simply improve your image either in your own eyes or those of others (virtue signalling), then there is no way for you to be defrauded – you feel better regardless of whether the money is actually accomplishing anything or if the mission is fake or not.

    Does the law take this dynamic into account? Of course it doesn’t. The law falls totally short of comprehending the human condition, let alone being capable of addressing it in any effective fashion.

  3. People who believe this woman can and should be understood. At such critical moments on the verge of life and death, a person more than ever needs psychological and financial support. It’s good that people responded, it’s bad that it was a scam. Recently, I often read interesting articles about finance – go now to find out the latest news. For example, today I learned about the importance of having a spreadsheet of your budget as a financial tool to manage your money. Then you don’t have to become a scammer or a thief to earn a lot of money. By learning how to manage your income and becoming financially literate, you can move closer to the life of your dreams.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *