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Gustwiller sentenced to 9 months in cancer scam PDF Print E-mail
Written by PETER KUEBECK, Sentinel Staff Writer   
Friday, 19 July 2013 12:52
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Kimberly Gustwiller of North Baltimore is seen with her lawyer Costa Krinas (right) July 19, 2013 in the courtroom of Judge Mayberry. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
A scheme in which she lied about having cancer - and profited by more than $8,000 - has netted Kimberlie Gustwiller nine months behind bars.
She was sentenced Friday afternoon in the courtroom of Wood County Judge Alan R. Mayberry.
"What were you thinking? How was this going to end?" Mayberry asked Gustwiller from the bench before pronouncing sentence.
A former North Baltimore resident, Gustwiller, 39, currently of Findlay, pleaded guilty in May to theft from an elderly person, a third-degree felony.
Gustwiller reportedly stole more than $8,000 in September, 2012, from people and businesses who believed that she was undergoing chemotherapy for stage four Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. At least eight of the victims were elderly.
Gustwiller reportedly lied about having cancer, and the story spread throughout North Baltimore and McComb. Fundraisers were held for her, and money was donated to Gustwiller. To further the tale, she shaved her head and died a section of her remaining hair pink.
However, suspicions arose when she failed to show symptoms, and she evaded offers of gifts to her oncologist, or gas cards to take her to medical appointments.
The issue was brought to the attention of North Baltimore Police Chief Allan Baer, who investigated and did not find any diagnosis of cancer in Gustwiller's medical records.
Prior to sentencing, Gustwiller's attorney, Costa Krinas, admitting that Gustwiller "told a horrible lie," further said that she did not lie about the disease for financial gain, but to cover up mental health and substance abuse issues. She has since been admitted to Flower Hospital, sought treatment for her addictions, and attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, among other efforts.
"Right now, mentally, Kimberlie Gustwiller is in a much better place than she was a year ago," Krinas said.
"She realizes she has to live with this mistake for the rest of her life."
Gustwiller herself addressed the court in a prepared statement, and fought back tears, saying "I made the mistake of lying to hide what I was truly battling, a life of addiction."
"I told the lie because I was so ashamed of the truth."
She said that, as a result, she lost her job, home, friends and family. She is currently employed at a Kohl's distribution center.
"I can't ask anyone to forgive me when I can't forgive myself."
Assistant Wood County Prosecuting Attorney Thomas Matuszak argued that Gustwiller's crime "shocks the conscience."
"She exploited (positive qualities in the community), and for what? For pity? No, she did it for personal fame and fortune."
"Through her actions she has managed to salt the earth for others" actually suffering from legitimate illnesses.
Mayberry, taking note that Gustwiller is a single mother of five boys - three of whom currently live with her - took her to task for lying to her children and telling them she was going to die.
"How cruel can you possibly be?" he asked.
"And then, when this lie comes out, and you're on television, they have to go back to school."
Additionally, noting that Gustwiller denied having any addictions in her medical records, Mayberry called into question whether she was being truthful on that score as well.
"I don't know what to believe, Miss Gustwiller," he said, later stating "I'm not sure I trust you that you had a drug problem."
Gustwiller's nine months in prison is to be followed by three years of community control sanctions. She is also to pay restitution in the amount of $8,090.72. However, since funds had previously been seized from Gustwiller and from a charitable account set up for her, she will owe a balance of $4,648.88.
She was taken into custody immediately after sentence was pronounced, and Mayberry denied Krinas' request that Gustwiller be given a few days to settle her affairs beforehand.
Last Updated on Saturday, 20 July 2013 08:35
 

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