An Australian woman that started a popular smartphone app focused on healthy living was reportedly fined $320,000 (USD) Thursday for receiving donations while lying about having cancer.
Many of those donations were supposed to go to children that actually suffered from cancer.
Belle Gibson, a 25-year-old all-natural remedy enthusiast, established a huge following by showcasing her phony cancer battle and then claiming it was cured with her purportedly organic nostrums and alternative therapies, according to Gizmodo. Through Instagram and Facebook, Gibson apprised users around the world with her “progress” and what she ate and did to get better. Gibson also advocated against vaccinations.
Media outlets and fans called her and her diet a miracle.
Cosmopolitan Magazine named her the winner of the Fun Fearless Female award for her social media work. Elle Magazine even wrote an article about her titled “The Most Inspiring Woman You’ve Met This Year.”
“She met ELLE‘s editor-in-chief Justine who, like me, was completely taken by Gibson’s strength of character,” an Elle columnist wrote in an article following initial allegations that her story was a fabrication. “There’s merit to the principle that you’re ‘innocent until proven guilty’ — and it’s possible that Gibson is suffering from an illness, or at least has at one time or another, but the grim truth is this: she’s so far offered no evidence to contradict the disturbing claims being levelled at her, and some medical experts say the fact she’s still alive is in itself a strong case against the presence of a brain tumour.”
“No. None of it’s true,” Gibson admitted after being confronted about her story. “I don’t want forgiveness. I just think [speaking out] was the responsible thing to do.”
She even duped Apple, one of the biggest companies in the world, after the tech corporation set up her app, The Whole Pantry, as its default for the first generation smartwatch, before eventually nixing it due to the controversy. Apple originally awarded it the Best iPhone App of 2013.
Overall, she garnered roughly $322,000 overall from her hoax, as she cultivated an online persona as a fighter of blood, brain, uterus, liver and spleen cancers. All of her social media pages — which included detailed accounts of alleged seizures suffered and hospital admissions — were deleted years ago when accusations, some from those who claimed knew her well, first arose.
Gibson’s fine was broken down in five separate parts due to the Australian Consumer Law Act, according to Australia’s ABC News.
Specifically, a $150,000 punishment was levied “for failing to donate 100 per cent of one week’s app sales to the family of Joshua Schwarz, a boy who had an inoperable brain tumour.”
“Ms. Gibson expressly compared the terrible circumstances of young Joshua to her own,” presiding Justice Debbie Mortimer said, reports ABC News, “asserting she had the same kind of tumour as he did; a statement which was completely false.”
Gibson only made three donations during her stint as a public swindler, amounting to $10,800. Justice Mortimer said she hopes the money from the fines actually go to some sort of charity this time.
“I think she carefully planned for this,” Victorian Minister for Consumer Affairs Marlene Kairouz said, reports ABC News. “She knew exactly what she was doing and thankfully there aren’t many people out there like Belle Gibson.”
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