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Fraudster parents of sick girl jailed for charity scam

A father who caused an uproar in Spain after he used his daughter's rare illness to raise money for mainly personal use was sentenced to five years in jail, court officials said Wednesday.

Fraudster parents of sick girl jailed for charity scam
Nadia with her parents in an appeal photo.

His wife was also jailed by the court in the northeastern city of Lleida for three-and-a-half years, they added.

The case of the young Nadia Nerea, who suffers from a potentially life-threatening genetic disorder, moved the country several years ago when her father Fernando Blanco went from one media outlet to another to publicise her case.

Considered a hero, Blanco, 53, had asked for donations to allegedly help pay for a pioneering operation in Houston in the United States that could save her life.

But at the end of 2016, it emerged that of the €422,000 ($485,000) raised by his foundation since 2014, just €20,000 were destined to his daughter, according to investigators.

The rest was used to rent homes, buy vehicles, luxury watches or pay for hotels.

READ MORE: Parents of sick girl accused of spending appeal money on themselves

Blanco and Nadia's mother Margarita Garau were found guilty of “aggravated fraud” for “using the illness of the daughter as a ploy to get money from others by way of donations.”

Doctors had supposedly told Blanco his daughter would die from trichothiodystrophy, which in severe cases causes delayed development, intellectual disability, and recurrent infections that can lead to death at an early age.   

The father claimed he had travelled all over the world and contacted the best specialists, including an eminent geneticist who lived in a cave in Afghanistan.

But in December 2016, 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 did not exist, nor did the alleged pioneering treatment, and Nadia was not in danger of dying.   

This prompted a probe for alleged fraud.   

Police eventually detained Blanco after he fled a police check near the border with France.   

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

Police also raided the family home in Catalonia where they found some 30 luxury watches worth 50,000 euros, laptops, high-end mobiles and marijuana.

NAMES

Readers reveal: These are the best bilingual baby names in Spain

Choosing a name for your child is always difficult but it's an extra challenge if you want it to work in more than one language.

Readers reveal: These are the best bilingual baby names in Spain
The Local's readers reveal their favourite bilingual baby names. Photo: RuthBlack/Depositphotos

Parents who decide to bring up their child bilingually in English and Spanish generally want to choose a name that works equally well in both English and Spanish. 

Some people like to choose names that are commonly used in both languages and are not only pronounced the same but have the exact same spelling, names such as Maria, Lucia, Isabel and Olivia for girls and Martin, Oscar, and Bruno for boys.

Then there are the names that are recognisable but either pronounced slightly differently or have a different spelling, such as Sofia/Sophia, Cristina/Christina, Ana/Anna or Paola/Paula for girls.

And for boys, Simon, Gabriel, David or Adrian are all names that are spelled the same but pronounced with a slightly different emphasis. Then there are names such as Hugo, which is spelled the same but sounds very different in both languages: Hewgo in English and Oogoh in Castellano.

Likewise, Isla is having a resurgence in the UK with its silent 's' but will always be pronounced as 'Izla' – the Castellano word for island – when in Spain. 

Typical Spanish names may be easy to pronounce for English-speakers despite not being traditional anglo names.

Names such as Pablo, Diego and Rafael are common enough that they won’t pose a problem, but although the name Jesus is pretty normal in Spain, it will certainly raise a few eyebrows among English speakers.


Photo: AFP

Some names though prove very challenging to Spanish speakers.

Spanish tongues struggle with Craig and Graham and don’t even think about selecting Irish names such as Deirdre or Siobhan.

READ ALSO: 

Kristin Tietz, an American who married a Spaniard, explained their process: “Our approach was to try out names orally (since hubby's a Spaniard) to try to choose names pronounced the same internationally.

“It worked like a charm until they enrolled in school (British), leading to a startling array of odd versions of the name Borja, which Americans and other nationalities seem to find easy to say. Sadly, many of his teachers could not, with “Borgo” one of our faves.”

For Mary Reid, an English teacher in Madrid and her Spanish partner Raul, it was important to have names that could be pronounced easily in both languages.

“We settled on Dani and Oscar for our two boys,” explains Mary, originally from Nottingham.

“I wanted the English grandparents to be able to say their grandsons’ names correctly,” she said.

“The spelling was also important too. Although in the UK I’m constantly having to say that it’s Dani with an “I” not “y”.  And that’s interesting seeing as British names have a big variety of spellings these days.”

Spelling was also top consideration for Tania Garcia Miñan, an English teacher who lives in Galicia with her Spanish husband.

“There are loads of Galician names that we automatically scrapped due to having an x in. Names with a J too were ruled out. I personally didn't want an equivalent, I wanted it to be as easy to pronounce and spell as possible in both languages.”

She chose Lucas for her son.

It was something her parents had also considered when choosing her and her sister’s name as they had moved from their native Galicia to London in the 1980s and brought up their two girls, Deborah and Tania.

“My name is pronounced the same in Spanish and English but I used to get annoyed in England when they spelt Tania with a ‘y’,” she said.

She also said it’s worth checking if that name has a certain stigma in one language.

“Lucas is the name they give Daffy Duck in Spain and the catch phrase is 'hasta luego, Lucas', so we hear that a lot.”

For Londoner Graham Keeley, who now lives near Barcelona with his French partner and their three boys, it was even more of a challenge.

“Most importantly was we wanted names that worked in English and French and that weren’t too weird in Spanish or Catalan,” he explains.

They picked Thomas for the firstborn and Max and Jack for their twin boys, born 18 months later.

“We nailed it with Max, which is pronounced and spelled the same in whatever language we come across,” he admitted. “But the other two are both easy in all four languages although pronounced slightly differently.”

“People pronounce it Tomas (Spanish), Toma (French), or Thomas (English) but we don’t really mind that, and Jack is either Jacques in French or Jack to everyone else,” he said.

“The most important thing was not to have a name that stood out as either being 'too French' or 'too English' or was just  plain unpronounceable in Spanish.

“Having a name like Graham – which no one can pronounce in Spanish – made us acutely aware of the importance of an easy name that wouldn’t single you out,” he said.

When it comes to girls' names, Sofia, Isabel, Lucia and Olivia are among the most popular suggestions but Spanish names such as Alma, Alba and Lola are gaining ground.

“We named my daughter Alba. In Gaelic it means Scotland (I’m Scottish) and works in English and Spanish with the same pronunciation too,” said Eilidh Shankland on The Local Spain's Facebook page.

“Biblical names with the same spelling work perfectly (and the same in Catalan too, don't forget some people need to factor that in too!). Such as David or Daniel,” added Lyn Shepherd.

“My mom was Spanish, dad Dutch and I’m South African living in Spain,” recounts Teresa Leonie Krijger Hoffmann. “My name Teresa works well and so did my brother’s name, Anthony. My sister’s, not so much – Maria de las Mercedes!”

One reader suggested trying it out for a while before registering it.

“I wanted my eldest to have my grandfather's name or a variation of it as his middle name – Donald (not a popular option I know!!),” said Natalie Abbott Tobias. “So to begin with we had just Don. The confusion it caused!! Don Lorenzo Don Tobias? People looked at us like we were simple! Luckily we hadn't registered it at that point.”

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