A woman who claimed to have terminal cancer and let her friends raise thousands of pounds for her to have a dream wedding has been jailed.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said that in June 2015 Toni Standen, 29, from Widnes in Cheshire, told two of her friends, Ashlea Rowson and Jennifer Douglas that she had been diagnosed with terminal vaginal cancer.
Ms Standen provided regular updates on her treatment to her friends with such clarity and detail that the condition was never questioned.
She also shaved her head to appear as though she was undergoing treatment and shared pictures of this on social media.
During this time, Ms Standen’s father had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and she told her friends that it was her father’s wish to see her married before he died.
In response to this, her friends set up a Go Fund Me page. Ms Standen was sole beneficiary of this and the proceeds went directly into her bank account.
Her story generated a lot of interest both locally and nationally and was reported in the Liverpool Echo and The Mirror. More than £8,344 was raised via the page and numerous gifts including flowers and cars for the wedding were donated.
A wedding which was largely organised by friends and family took place on 27 July 2019 . Unfortunately, by this time, Ms Standen’s father had died from his illness.
Suspicion grew surrounding Ms Standen’s condition after the wedding. Eventually, she admitted what she had done in a three-way phone call with her friends which they recorded. In the call she admitted that she did not have cancer and never had.
She pleaded guilty to fraud on 24 November 2020 and at Chester Magistrates’ Court, District Judge Nicholas Sanders jailed her for five months and ordered her to repay a donation of £2,000 made by a local businessman.
Neil Colville, Senior District Prosecutor for CPS Mersey Cheshire said: “Toni Standen made up a terminal illness to gain sympathy and then watched as her friends raised money to support her through what they thought were her final years. She used that money to fund a wedding and a holiday.
“Her own father was genuinely ill but her condition was a fraud. She appears to have dug herself deeper and deeper into the deception as the years went by and seemed incapable of telling the truth and bringing the deception to an end.
“A local businessman donated £2,000 as he was so moved by her plight. He said in a Victim Personal Statement that he would think twice before giving to this sort of charity again.
“This was a sophisticated fraud, carried out over a number of years and has left her friends and others devasted. They feel cheated and betrayed.
“It is clear this has had a devastating effect on Ms Standen too. But she has only herself to blame and will now spend Christmas and several months after behind bars.”
DJ Sanders, sentencing, said: “You continued to embellish that tissue of lies, saying you had weeks to live. I don’t accept you couldn’t stop. Not only did you not stop, but you also made it worse by giving newspaper interviews to engender public sympathy. You used that money raised through the generosity of strangers to fund a wedding and a holiday. You kept taking money over many months. Every right-thinking member of society would be appalled by your behaviour.”