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Accused of faking cancer, Texas teen faces charges

By Juan Carlos Llorca and Linda Stewart Ball
Associated Press / September 15, 2011

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EL PASO - A West Texas teenager who collected $17,000 in donations after telling people in her small town that she was dying of leukemia and had only six months to live faces charges for lying about being sick.

Nine months later, Ruth Angelica “Angie’’ Gomez, 18, of Horizon City, a town located 20 miles east of El Paso, is still very much alive and has been charged with theft by deception for receiving donations under false pretenses.

“We haven’t found anything that indicates that she does have leukemia,’’ Horizon City Police Detective Liliane Medina said yesterday.

Police began investigating in June, after someone complained that Gomez claimed she was terminally ill but did not appear to be sick.

Gomez collected donations through an organization called Achieve the Dream Foundation, which she created in May to help children with leukemia beat cancer.

Police filed felony charges against Gomez this week after subpoenaing her bank records. The district attorney’s office is reviewing the case.

No other suspects were involved, police said.

Gomez, a June graduate of Horizon City High, could not be reached for comment yesterday, and it was not immediately known if she had a lawyer.

Although the website for her Achieve The Dream Foundation was no longer in service, an archive showed a smiling Gomez sporting a dark T-shirt with her organization’s green ribbon-shaped logo and the tagline: “Behind every fighter there is a supporter. Will you be mine?’’

Hundreds responded to pleas Gomez made through motivational talks and fund-raisers. Among those taken in were students at Da Vinci High School, who threw a prom party and fund-raiser for her after she told them that she had missed her own senior prom because she was in treatment.

It was a dream prom with a limousine, a dress donated by a fancy boutique, and Gomez, named queen of the dance.

But the end of 2010 was apparently a turbulent time for the teen.

After returning from a trip to Kansas City, Mo., Gomez told her church that the cancer she had spent 11 years of her childhood battling had come back even stronger, and that she would not live to see the summer.

She also told Nicole Matsuda, a 28-year-old youth leader at the First Methodist Church, that her parents had kicked her out of the house and asked for a place to temporarily stay.

“That is something we would do from time to time, we work with a lot of teenage kids,’’ Matsuda said in June.

Pale and skinny, it was not hard for some people to think Gomez was ill.

“She would be weak, always sleeping,’’ Matsuda said.

From time to time, Gomez would ask people to drive her to a nearby hospital to get treatment but not to wait because she did not want to impose.

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