Woman claiming to raise money for cancer research arrested - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

UPDATE: Woman claiming to raise money for cancer research arrested

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Katherine Conapinski. Source: Warrick County Sheriff's Office Katherine Conapinski. Source: Warrick County Sheriff's Office

We're learning more about a Warrick County woman charged with theft and fraud.

The sheriff's office says Katherine Conapinski misrepresented an organization collecting money for a little boy with cancer, and officials think there could be more victims. Now, the boy's mom tells 14 News, Conapinski even took money, cash, at her son's burial.

The Newburgh mother says the suspect not only scammed her friends and neighbors out of thousands of dollars, but also pretended to be the family spokesman, giving false medical updates on her son Wade's condition, even though she never spoke to the family.

"I didn't think it was possible. I didn't think someone that was from Newburgh and from the community would do this," said Wade's mother, Heather DeBruin.

DeBruin says she was first contacted in October by Conapinski, or Katie Jackson, her maiden name on Facebook, saying she could help raise money for her family.

DeBruin was thankful but said insurance was covering the medical expenses, but she might be interested in fundraising for neuroblastoma. One of Conapinski's biggest fundraisers would be a benefit at Quail Crossing.

"My first thought was almost embarrassment, that here Heather is, one of my dear friends and I hadn't signed up for any fundraiser and done anything, and this absolute stranger had offered to do something," said friend Leann Freeman.

Friends say Conapinski told them the DeBruin's needed money because Wade's treatment was experimental and insurance would not cover the cost.

"So, of course you want to help, this is every parent's nightmare to get the diagnosis they got," said friend Kristy Hudson.

Nearly 100 people attended the fundraiser, and local businesses donated dozens of items for a silent auction.

"It was a room full of people who came together because they cared about this little boy," said Freeman.

Even after her son's death, DeBruin says Conapinski continued to collect money. The last donation was $2,000 given the day Wade was buried.

"She called and said Quail Crossing, the anonymous donor," said Hudson. 

The DeBruin's say they never saw any of the donated money, and they continue to raise money for other families through their organization, Wade's Wings.

"He was my happy go lucky boy. I remember his hugs and I remember his kisses," said DeBruin.

Katherine Conapinski is charged with eight counts of theft, one count of check fraud, and one count of check deception, but the sheriff's office says there could be more charges.

Conapinski is due in court later this month. She has bonded out of jail.

If you believe you were scammed, you are asked to call the Warrick County Sheriff's Office at 812-897-6180.

If you would like to donate to Wade's Wings, log onto the Vanderburgh Community Foundation website.

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