MIAMI: Internet cancer scam unveiled

Featured Image: The photo used by Cindy Choi in creating fake Facebook pages for Kevin and Lucas San Roman. The true identities of the men are unknown. 

In heart-wrenching detail on Facebook and in a family blog, the story of Kevin San Roman’s battle against leukemia unfolded over three years. Then, he died.

The real Cindy Choi source:Facebook

Relatives and younger brother Lucas continued writing about their grief and a little cousin’s struggle to beat a brain tumor.

Over several years, both young men — who purportedly lived in Spain — attracted hundreds of Facebook friends from schools in South Miami-Dade while advocating cancer causes and tugging at the heartstrings of teachers, parents and students. Several teens became their online girlfriends, trading text messages, talking by phone and planning to meet in person.But the San Roman family was all a lie. The long-running charade unraveled in July as police and prosecutors — alerted by a suspicious Kendall teacher whose daughter had fallen for Lucas — launched an investigation.

The probe revealed that an imposter from Doral concocted the details of cancer treatment, accounts of doctor visits and untimely deaths of phantom characters. Family photos, and ones of supposed cancer-stricken relatives, were stolen from the web.Hundreds of young people were duped, comforted because each “brother” had dozens of mutual friends from St. Brendan, Lourdes and Coral Reef high schools.

Ultimately, investigators could not bring criminal charges. The imposter never physically abused anyone. And the person behind the fake Facebook pages and blog removed them before prosecutors could preserve them. The saga, nevertheless, is a cautionary tale of deception in the digital age, where the meaning of friendship has been twisted by the mere click of a mouse.

“These predators are using Facebook and getting away with it,” said Maria Masters, 49, whose daughter became embroiled in the drama. She says she hopes her family’s experience will raise awareness about Facebook fakes. “Your kid may think they know someone, but if they haven’t met them in person, they may not exist.”

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