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June 2, 2010

Fundraising fraud charged

Akwesasne couple's claim child had cancer said to be bogus

AKWESASNE — An Akwesasne couple was charged with collecting money for medical treatments for their 4-year-old daughter, who is not sick.

Frank W. Laughing Jr. and Jennifer Jackson-Laughing were charged with first-degree scheming to defraud, third-degree grand larceny and endangering the welfare of a child, according to St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Police.

Mr. Laughing was also charged with criminal possession of a forged instrument for allegedly having a falsified medical paper, police said.

The family claimed the child had colon cancer, according to the Indian Time newspaper.

The alleged scheme included donation cans at several local businesses and a series of community fundraisers, including two silent auctions and a benefit dance.

The parents went as far as posting elaborate medical updates on the girl's condition on Facebook.

Police said a community member notified them of the possible fraud.

St. Regis Tribal Police Detective Matthew Rourke said police are still trying to figure out how much money the family collected but said it is "in the thousands."

"Everybody is just shocked," said David Staddon, director of the Public Information Office for the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council. "We've never had anything like this before.

"This is a generous community, and the people really pull together, especially when it comes to a person facing a medical situation or to support team sports."

Staddon said he does not think this incident will impact future giving, but it is tough to predict.

"Honest to gosh, I don't really think this is going to affect people's giving. They might be a little more cautious, but I don't think they will hesitate to open their hearts and pocketbooks to support a cause."

Jackson-Laughing was released under the supervision of the Franklin County Probation Department, while her husband is being held in County Jail in lieu of $25,000 bail.

Tribal Police are asking anyone who may have been victimized by the pair to contact Detective Rourke at 358-9200.

He said it is possible that people could get their money back if they have proper documentation.

E-mail Denise A. Raymo at: draymo@pressrepublican.com

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