For the last eight months, the 13-year-old boy lived as if it were his last days.
The teen had terminal brain cancer and he was going to die — that’s what his parents told him.
But it turns out his diagnosis was very much a lie — a lie that would soon enough land his mom and dad in handcuffs.
According to the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office in northern Florida, the narrative that Ginny Irovando Long, 34, and Robert Edward Long, 47, told their teen son was a phony tale used to raise loads of cash. The goal? Tug at people’s heartstrings so they would donate money to the family.
Deputies say the Fort Walton Beach couple launched a T-shirt fundraiser and even created a GoFund Me account. Their attempt to raise funds was successful and they cashed out on donations meant to help with the family’s ‘medical expenses,’” officials said on social media. Police did not say how much money they made.
“The 13-year-old has spent the last eight months believing he is going to die from brain cancer, but the OCSO’s investigation revealed his medical records prove no brain tumors exist,” investigators posted on Facebook. “The investigation revealed the pair set up a T-shirt fundraiser for the boy at his school last year and shared the bogus cancer diagnosis information on their Facebook accounts as well.”
So what exactly was the Long family’s pitch? Their son, Dawson, was told by doctors that he would die by Christmas.
On Dec. 28, the couple posted photos of their son alongside a lengthy caption that read:
“Well its three days past Christmas and he is doing okay. He still has his good and bad days, but we are some blessed and happy parents knowing he has come this far,” said the boy’s mother.
“When the doctors told us that he didn’t think he would be with us on Christmas it crushed our hearts. All I can say is that everyone that told us that you can’t always believe what the doctor says, well that is true. There is only one person that knows when it’s Dawson’s time to go and that is GOD. Every day that we have him with us we thank God for [letting] us be his mommy and daddy one more day. Please keep the prayers coming; they are working.”
Investigators launched their investigation in November “after suspicions arose within the School Resource Officer program that the couple was exploiting the victim for financial gain by falsely saying he was dying from brain cancer,” deputies said in a statement.
The couple was arrested on Thursday. Both have been charged with one count of child abuse and nine counts of fraud, records show.