A woman who faked having cancer and received thousands of dollars in donations has pleaded guilty to theft and deception.
Jenna Esslinger's day in court finally came after months of delays.
Esslinger, of Maidencreek Township, Berks County, faked having cancer. Her scheme unraveled when one organization asked for a doctor's note.
In 2009, many people dug into their pockets to a help Esslinger with her the expensive medical bills she claimed to have from cancer treatments.
"Since she came to us saying she had cancer, we jumped right on board," Andrew Henderson said in 2009 when he found out about her fraud.
"She was accused of taking close to $15,000," said Asst. District Attorney Adrian Shchuka. "Additionally, the Lions Club was prepared to hand over a check for thousands of dollars and they're the ones that ultimately called the detectives' office regarding suspicious behavior and everything unraveled after that."
The doctor's note she gave the Lions Club was forged.
Esslinger has remarried and is now Jenna Cunningham.
She pleaded guilty Thursday to theft by deception, forgery, and violations to the charitable donations statute. She will spend one to seven years in a state prison.
"Money is replaceable, thank God," said Allan Sodmosky, Cunningham's attorney. "And she's doing everything she can to get them their money back."
But her victims, like Andrew Henderson, said one year in prison is not enough for what she did.
"Never before did you wonder if you're donating to somebody, do they actually have that disease?" said Henderson. "She's made that stigma. Everyone is second guessing. 'Is this person really sick?'" Henderson said Thursday after learning of Cunningham's sentence.
The delay in the case was due to Cunningham spending some time in rehabilitation for addiction.
"I can assure you that, at this point, I think the community can feel a lot safer with Jenna being incarcerated for a period of time," said Sodomsky. "And when she returns to the community being a lot safer as a different person."
Cunningham's lawyer said she has paid more than $6,000 in restitution. She was ordered by the judge to pay $11,000.