A VICTIM of a cancer faker says she "felt violated and betrayed" after being tricked into sharing a bogus online fundraiser that raked in £52,000.
Katie Taylor was duped into posting a link to heartless Nicole Elkabbas'sGoFundMe page on her Facebook group community of more than 18,000 members.
Elkabbas, 42, was jailed for two years and nine months yesterday after setting up the online fundraiser to con thousand of pounds in donations from victims.
She claimed she needed to pay for life-saving ovarian cancer treatment, then splashed the money on her lavish lifestyle.
Among those the swindler targeted were members of The Latte Lounge, a group for women over 40, founded by Katie.
Elkabbas used huge sums of cash to fund her gambling addiction, pay off mounting debts and splash out on £3,000 Spurs box tickets and luxury trips abroad.
The callous con artist wept as she was jailed yesterday for two years and nine months at Canterbury Crown Court after being found guilty of fraud in November.
After Elkabbas was convicted, Katie revealed she had "felt sick, repulsed, in shock, stunned and could not function properly" when police told her in 2018 that the fundraising campaign was fake.
Writing on her website, Katie posted: "I felt violated, used, betrayed, ashamed, embarrassed, humiliated, depressed and deflated, I did not stop crying and couldn’t sleep for days and weeks after.
"I couldn’t believe this was true, I felt small and really, really stupid.
"I felt like Nicole must have been laughing in my face at how gullible I was, it was so humiliating.
"How could someone take advantage of me and our group members like this for so many months?"
Katie had posted a link to the GoFundMe page on the website after a pal contacted her in March, 2018 about the “Nicole needs our help treatment” GoFundMe campaign.
They had been tricked into believing Elkabbas needed to raise £30,000 by the following day to fund cancer treatment.
Convinced she was helping a cancer-stricken Elkabbas, Katie urged members to donate at least £1 if they could, giving £20 herself.
After the link was shared, hundreds of people posted positive comments, with Katie later fearing "many members had donated throughout the campaign".
Over two months, gambling addict Elkabbas posted in the group to shamelessly promote her GoFundMe campaign, lying that she needed even more cash for further treatment.
Police later contacted Katie to tell her the fundraising campaign was fake.
Katie wrote: "How could someone possibly do something like this, when there are so many really sick people in the world who genuinely need money and help?"
A court heard how "compulsive liar" Elkabbas had used a photo claiming to show her stricken in hospital – but was from a previous operation to remove her gallbladder.
The "Nicole needs our help treatment" page created by Elkabbas was made to look like it had been set up by her mum, who she cared for full time.
It played on the public's heartstrings by describing her as a "beautiful daughter" and "loving mother to her dear 11-year-old son".
It described the trauma of undergoing three operations and six rounds of chemotherapy leading to now desperately needing money to pay for a breakthrough drug in Spain as the "only way she could be saved".
I felt like Nicole must have been laughing in my face at how gullible I was, it was so humiliating
A total of £31,560 was given directly through 697 GoFundMe donations, with £13,500 recorded by the fundraising site as offline donations and some people additionally transferring money directly into Elkabbas' account.
Detectives said she gambled away more than £8,000 of the donations and used £14,000 of the charitable funds to pay off a suspected gambling debt.
She also splashed more than £6,000 on multiple lavish holidays to luxury destinations such as Rome, Italy and Alicante and Barcelona, both in Spain.
At a hearing in November, Elkabbas was also found guilty of one count of possession of criminal property in relation to the thousands of pounds worth of donations she had transferred to her bank account.
'I FEEL SICK'
Caging Elkabbas yesterday, Judge Mark Weekes said: "The deception was cunning and manipulative.
"You produced detail and at times a graphic account of the treatment you were receiving with a view to keeping those you had snared in your web of lies paying you money.
"You tugged at their heart strings. You made mention of your child to add to gild the lily still further and to attempt to wring more cash out of those you had deceived.
"All the while, you were gambling, enjoying shopping trips and luxuries in Italy and Spain at their expense."
One victim, Michal Booker, who lost her best friend to ovarian cancer eight years ago, gave more than £6,000 through her charitable trust, the court heard.
She said: "I try not to think about that stage of my life. When I do, I feel sick to the pit of my stomach.
"Above all I am angry at myself for being so naive. I feel sad that this has changed the person that I am.
"I look at anybody asking for help and doubt that person. I will never be able to help a stranger again."
Elkabbas described herself as a "gambling addict" in 2018 after she spent more than £60,000 in one year.
She called her habit "excessive, erratic and extreme".
The mum took six holidays to Spain, even visiting the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona – but denied the jaunts were “tourist trips”.
Instead Elkabbas claimed she was visiting a specialist clinic where surgery would cost 40,000 euros and a further 13,700 euros a month for a cycle of drug treatment lasting between six to 12 months.
But Judge Weekes said: "There was no paperwork for procedures in Spain or medical records to prove this."
Detectives had been alerted to her activity by the NHS counter-fraud team who investigated the GoFundMe picture taken from a gallbladder surgery months earlier.
Fraud investigator Oscar Riba Domingo of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate said after today's sentencing: "Nicole Elkabbas is a compulsive liar who took advantage of the charitable spirit of hundreds of people so she could feed her destructive gambling addiction, attend Premier League football matches and enjoy other people’s hard-earned money.
"Cancer is a terrible illness that claims countless lives across the world every day, so for Elkabbas to lie about needing treatment for it is beyond disgraceful.
"There is absolutely no excuse for her actions and she is deserving of the prison sentence she will now have to serve."
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