MOUNT CLEMENS, Mich. — A judge yesterday ordered a Michigan woman to spend a year in jail for scamming thousands of dollars from donors by drugging her 12-year-old son to make him appear to have cancer, a sentence that her family complained was too lenient.
Carol Schnuphase, 47, pleaded no contest in February to charges of second-degree child abuse and acting under false pretenses. Yesterday, she apologized for her actions in Macomb County Circuit Court before Judge Richard Caretti announced he would send her to the county jail rather than his preference: state prison.
“Your conduct, ma’am, in this case is reprehensible. To tell a vulnerable, defenseless young boy that he is dying of cancer for your own pecuniary gain is almost beyond the realm of comprehension,’’ said Caretti. “To then give your son strong opiate-based pills crushed up in his applesauce to further your despicable scheme defies all reason.’’
The defendant’s aunt, Lorraine Kelsch, said after the sentencing that the family had wanted Schnuphase to be sentenced to five years in prison.
“My reaction is disgust,’’ Kelsch said. “That sentence stinks. It’s horrible.’’
Prosecutors said a hospital tested the boy, who is now 13, and declared him cancer-free, although he was going through opiate withdrawal.
Defense attorney Dominic Greco, however, said Schnuphase denies having given her son “opiates of any kind.
“There are other ways for the test being false,’’ he said, pointing to the possibility that the medication Schnuphase was giving her son to combat acid reflux may have resulted “in a false positive.’’
Greco said his client’s actions were out of character and may have stemmed in part from her husband’s sudden death and the recent loss of her job.