Utah advocate who raised money for fake cancer diagnoses admits to fraud

Coco Berthmann entered a plea in abeyance admitting to fraud on Jan. 30. Charges say she faked a cancer diagnosis and collected thousands of dollars in donations.

Coco Berthmann entered a plea in abeyance admitting to fraud on Jan. 30. Charges say she faked a cancer diagnosis and collected thousands of dollars in donations. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — A South Jordan human rights advocate accused of faking a cancer diagnosis has pleaded guilty to wrongful appropriation, a class A misdemeanor, admitting to obtaining unauthorized control of another's property.

Coco Berthmann, 29, faked the diagnosis and collected thousands of dollars in donations for medical expenses, according to charging documents.

Berthmann entered the plea as a plea in abeyance, meaning 3rd District Judge Randall Skanchy will not sentence or convict her as long as she completes the terms of her plea — a year of probation without offense and a $900 payment each month until she is able to pay $9,901 in restitution.

Berthmann created a GoFundMe seeking to raise $100,000 for medical expenses connected with a recent diagnosis for stage 3 mantle cell lymphoma cancer. A former roommate told police about the GoFundMe and said her former roommate had claimed to have other health issues that were miraculously cured, according to charging documents.

She was arrested in February 2022. An arrest report noted that Berthmann has been "a habitual liar throughout the years, claiming Coco's mother was sending people to the United States to kill her, she had had a stage 4 cancer which was miraculously cured, and she had been raped on many occasions."

The advocate has claimed her family trafficked her for the first 15 years of her life and then she ran away from home.

She also allegedly claimed she had initially been treated at the Huntsman Cancer Institute and was now seeking alternative treatment with specialists in Alaska and Chicago.

Police say Berthmann told them she had been a patient at Huntsman Cancer Institute and was seeking alternative cancer treatments in Alaska and Chicago. But she was never a patient at Huntsman and had not sought such treatments elsewhere, the charges state.

According to her LinkedIn profile, she is a "counter human-trafficking specialist and aspiring international human rights attorney," in addition to being the president of the Coco Berthmann Scholarship Fund which helps provide scholarships to human trafficking survivors.

Berthmann is scheduled for a probation review hearing on July 17.

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Emily Ashcraft joined KSL.com as a reporter in 2021. She covers courts and legal affairs, as well as health, faith and religion news.


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