National News

Scottsdale PD: Coronado HS alum fakes cancer to get donations

Posted December 15, 2017 11:40 a.m. EST

— A Coronado High School alum is accused of faking cancer to receive thousands of dollars in donations from fellow alumni.

Christopher Wade Nelson, 46, faces charges of theft, fraudulent schemes and taking the identity of another person. Police say they know of at least 20 victims, who donated a total of $30,000 to Nelson.

According to the police report, Nelson connected with former classmates on Facebook back in 2010, asking former band members and other alums from Coronado High School to donate money to help pay for his "cancer treatment."

He had claimed to have terminal pancreatic cancer.

"There's nothing that indicates he was ever receiving treatment or had cancer," said Scottsdale police officer Kevin Watts. "We was incarcerated for a period of time and never received treatment during that time."

Over the next five years, police say the group of former classmates coordinated fundraising efforts to raise money for "medical expenses related to the cancer treatments he claimed to receive."

According to the police report, Nelson also created a fake email account in his aunt's name, which "he used to defraud friends of money."

The police report states that by 2014, "the victims began to realize that defendant Nelson did not have terminal cancer."

"It was later discovered that Nelson was never diagnosed with any form of cancer and never had any treatments at any hospitals for cancer or any related cancer procedures," according to the police report.

Tricia Gustafson went to high school with Nelson and organized monthly fundraisers when she heard he was dying of cancer.

But as the years went by, Gustafson and her friends got a little suspicious.

Nelson was doing great and looked better than ever.

Gustafson lost her father to cancer last year and said it's a shame that someone she trusted would take advantage of everyone's kindness and generosity.

"It's heartbreaking that there are people we know going through it(cancer), and they could have used that money," said Gustafson. "What did he do with it? There are real families out there struggling. he took advantage of a lot of people."

After an unrelated arrest in 2015, Nelson reportedly "felt the pressure to tell the truth about the money he stole from his friends." So police say he created another fake e-mail account, and sent a note to his group of supported titled, "The passing of Wade Nelson."

In the message, he said that Nelson had killed himself.

Nelson was arrested in Chandler on Dec. 7.

Anyone who donated money to Nelson is encouraged to contact Scottsdale Police.