Parents of sick girl accused of spending appeal money on themselves

A week ago Fernando Blanco was a heroic Spanish father who raised over €900,000 for his sick daughter, but on Friday he was behind bars, an alleged fraudster accused of spending much of that cash on himself.

Parents of sick girl accused of spending appeal money on themselves
Nadia with her parents, who are accused of fraud. Photo: Blanco Grau family / Facebook

A judge in the northeastern region of Catalonia remanded him in custody on Friday and stripped his wife of custody of their child for “alleged fraud with regards to the demand for money they made for treatment for their daughter”, a court spokeswoman said.

The case of the young Nadia Nerea, who suffers from a rare, potentially life-threatening genetic disorder, had moved the country after Blanco went from one media outlet to another to publicise her case, saying a pioneering operation in Houston in the United States could save her life.

Police said on Friday in a statement that her parents had raised €918,000 ($969,000) for Nadia's treatment, but spent close to €600,000 euros of that on other things.

Blanco's story was tragic: the doctors had told him his daughter would die from trichothiodystrophy, which in mild cases only gives patients brittle hair but when severe causes delayed development, intellectual disability, and recurrent infections that can lead to death at an early age.

He would not give in, though, and said he had travelled all over the world, contacted the best specialists, including an eminent geneticist who lived in a cave in Afghanistan.

But this week, the Spanish media outlets El Pais and Hipertextual cast serious doubt on the story.

They said there was no proof of his travels, the hospital in Houston didn't exist, nor did the alleged pioneering treatment, and Edward Brown, the supposed genetics specialist who conceived it, did not appear in any registry.

On Monday, a judge launched a probe for alleged fraud.    

Two days later, police detained Blanco after he fled a police check near the border with France.

He had on him €1,450 euros in cash, two watches, various electronic devices and a blank firing gun, police said.  

Police also raided the family home in the small mountainous village of Figols d'Organya, where they found some 30 luxury watches worth €50,000, three tablet computers, high-end mobiles and marijuana.

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Spain’s ‘2,000-tumour man’ sentenced for scamming donors

A Spaniard known as "the man with 2,000 tumours" who lied about having terminal cancer was handed a two-year jail term Monday for scamming donations from thousands, including celebrities.

Spain's '2,000-tumour man' sentenced for scamming donors
De Cedecejj - Trabajo propio, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Paco Sanz, 50, appeared regularly on television and social media between 2010 and 2017, claiming to have nearly 2,000 tumours as a result of Cowden syndrome.

Saying he had only months to live, he appealed for donations via his web page, through text messages and even a charity gala.   

Although he did suffer from the syndrome, all his tumours were benign and posed no threat to his life.

Prosecutors say the former security guard collected just under €265,000 ($319,000) before being arrested in March 2017 in the eastern Valencia region.   

Among those who sent him money were popular television presenter Jorge Javier Vazquez and Spanish footballer Alvaro Negredo.    

Prosecutors accused Sanz of “taking advantage of his illness” to “obtain illegal funding”.

They said he presented the disease as being “much more serious than it really was” and of falsely claiming he could only be saved if he got experimental treatment in the United States.   

In reality, he travelled to the US to take part in a free clinical trial and “all his costs were covered” by the firm running it, prosecutors added.    

In video obtained by Spanish media at the time of his arrest, Sanz could be seen joking with his girlfriend and family members about the lies he was telling.

As his trial opened in Madrid on Monday, Sanz pleaded guilty to fraud, receiving a two-year jail sentence, while his girlfriend was sentenced to a year and nine months for being his accomplice.

But they are not likely to serve time behind bars, as sentences below two years are usually suspended in Spain for first-time offenders convicted of non-violent crimes.

The trial will continue so the court can determine how much money the pair owe in damages.

READ ALSO: Fraudster parents of sick girl jailed for charity scam