County woman faces felony after faking cancer diagnosis

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A Switzerland County woman is now in the Switzerland County jail, charged with faking having cancer in order to get money and other items from unsuspecting residents.

Last Friday, September 30th, Indiana State Police Detectives arrested Santana M. Banta, age 29, of Patriot, on charges related to Banta faking an illness and soliciting donations to cover her medical bills.

According to the Indiana State Police, the investigation began at the beginning of September when a concerned citizen contacted the State Police. The citizen made a complaint that Banta had made numerous claims on social media that she was suffering from terminal cancer.

Banta claimed that she was being treated for her illness at James Graham Brown Cancer Center in Louisville, Kentucky. Banta also started a ‘GoFundMe’ Account to allegedly pay for her medical bills.

The investigation determined she accepted in excess of $3,000 through that account.

The detectives soon determined that Banta did not have cancer and was scamming people out of money and then using the money for personal reasons.

At the conclusion of the investigation, the case was turned over to the Switzerland County Prosecutor’s Office for review. A warrant was then issued for Banta’s arrest.

She was arrested on Friday without incident on charges of Theft-level 6 felony and Deception-class A Misdemeanor. She was incarcerated at the Switzerland County Jail.

According to the Probable Cause Affidavit filed in the Switzerland County Clerk’s office last Friday, Indiana State Police Detective Brian Earls spoke with a concerned citizen on Tuesday, September 6th.

The affidavit says:

“On Tuesday, September 6th, 2016, your Affiant (Detective Earls) spoke with a concerned citizen who was suspicious of a Santana M. Banta claiming to have terminal cancer and taking donations for her hospital bills. The concerned citizen, who is familiar with Banta, informed me that Banta has made multiple post on Facebook about her illness and post updates about her doctor visits. The concerned citizen also informed me that people in the community have done fundraisers to raise money for Banta, and that Banta has started a Gofundme account linked to her Facebook account. The concerned citizen said that Banta claims that she gets treatments at the James Graham Brown Cancer Center in Louisville, Kentucky.

“Your Affiant looked at Banta’s Facebook page. Banta made multiple post claiming to have terminal cancer and made posted (sic) that she is treated at the James Graham Brown Cancer Center. Banta posted updates on her illness and doctor’s visits. I also observed Banta’s Gofundme account which had approximately $3,600.00 through donations.

“Your Affiant contacted the James Graham Brown Cancer Center and was informed that they do not have a patient by the name of Santana M. Banta.

“Your Affiant, along with Det. Brent Miller interviewed Banta about her terminal cancer claim. Banta said she lied about having terminal cancer. Banta said all the money she received through Gofundme, donations, and fundraisers has been spent on groceries and bills.

“According to Banta’s bank records, she received $3,223.22 from the Gofundme account.

“According to Banta’s King’s Daughters’ Hospital records, she has not been diagnosed for any type of cancer.”

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Based on the Probable Cause Affidavit, Detective Earls turned the case over to Switzerland County Prosecutor Monica Hensley, who approved the filing of the charges on Friday.

The official charges include one count of Theft, a Level 6 Felony, and in that charge names 11 individuals whom Banta had “Intent to Deprive”, with most of those people having been donors to the Gofundme account.

Banta was also charged with one count of Deception, a Class A Misdemeanor, which centers on her “knowingly or intentionally” making a false or misleading written statement by using social media (Facebook and Gofundme) to claim to have terminal cancer in order to have people and groups make donations to her.

On the Level 6 Felony, the sentence range is from six months to 2 1/2 years, with an advisory sentence of one year, and the court could order a fine of up to $10,000. The Class A Misdemeanor carries a maximum jail sentence of up to one year, with no advisory sentence; and also a possible fine of up to $5,000.

The court could also order that Banta pay restitution to her victims.