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Police investigate possible cancer scam

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State police look into claims that a woman received gifts and donations by falsely claiming she was dying of terminal liver cancer.

By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

WYTHEVILLE — Virginia State Police are continuing to investigate a 42-year-old Austinville woman who may have falsely raised money for health problems.
Law enforcement officials identify the subject of the investigation as Melissa Carol Sawyers, though she may also be known as Missy Briggs.
“We are currently looking for anyone who may have given her money for health problems over the last two years,” according to information shared by State Police Sgt. Mike Conroy. “We know of two fundraisers that were done for her in November 2010 and a Facebook fundraiser that was done in March of 2012.”

State Police Special Agent Heather Brown is conducting an investigation into Sawyers possibly obtaining money by false pretenses.
State police ask that anyone who has donated to fundraisers involving Sawyers contact them at (276) 228-3131 or 800-542-8716.
“As people call in, the investigation may expand,” Conroy told The Gazette.
The investigators plan to present their findings to Carroll County Commonwealth’s Attorney Nathan Lyons when complete.
A person who participated in fundraising activities for Sawyers and who is involved in the investigation spoke to The Gazette on a condition of anonymity.
The person told police that Sawyers claimed to have stage 4, terminal liver cancer. Sawyers also added that she had just gotten married and didn’t have money to go on a honeymoon, the person said.
After a post went up on Facebook saying that Sawyers wasn’t doing well and had to go into the hospital, others started holding fundraisers, the person said. “Her exact words were, ‘I just want to see the beach one last time before I die.’”
As a result, people donated the use of a beach house for two weeks and a condo for three days, as well as lots of money.
“My heart went out to her,” said the person participating in the investigation.
Even though Sawyers didn’t look like she was sick, the person took her at her word.
Donated items came from this subject’s friends, and it feels like she let them down, the person said. There are people out there with cancer who really need help, and it hurts them when somebody falsely makes those kinds of claims, they added.