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Utah human rights advocate arrested for allegedly faking cancer, raising money for medical expenses

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A Utah woman who raised awareness about human trafficking was arrested Wednesday for falsely claiming she had cancer and collecting thousands for medical expenses, according to reports. 

Coco Berthmann, 28, is facing charges of communications fraud. 

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    South Jordan police investigated the case.  (

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    Berthmann claimed to have Mantle Cell Lymphoma (

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    Berthmann is in custody at the Salt Lake County Jail (Google Maps)

A probable cause affidavit obtained by Salt Lake City’s FOX 13 states that South Jordan opened an investigation after someone tipped them off that Berthmann was raising money on a GoFundMe page to help her battle against Mantle Cell Lymphoma. 

When contacted by investigators, Berthmann said she had the documentation to prove her cancer diagnosis but “never followed through,” according to the affidavit. 

Medical institutes where Berthmann claimed to have been treated for cancer told investigators she was never actually a patient with them, FOX 13 reported. 

Investigators reportedly contacted Berthmann who allegedly changed her story but still failed to produce any documentation. 

Berthmann is in custody at the Salt Lake City Jail. It wasn’t immediately clear if she has retained an attorney who could speak on her behalf. She’s not formally facing any charges. 

Berthmann is originally from Germany and has claimed to be a survivor of human trafficking. The Malouf Foundation, which has hosted panels by Berthman, said it has not worked with her for nearly a year.

“The Malouf Foundation has procedures to help ensure the advocacy and content we provide is accurate and responsible,” the organization said in a statement. “If the credibility of an individual or their accusation of sex trafficking is called into question, we immediately investigate and work to take deliberate and thoughtful action to address the situation.” 

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