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December 17th, 2017

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'Sophisticated con artist' faked cancer for taxpayer-funded abortion

Peter Holley

By Peter Holley The Washington Post

Published August 4, 2016

Chalice Renee Zeitner was convicted of fraud after faking cancer to secure a taxpayer-funded abortion.

Her attorney had attempted to convince jurors that his client sincerely believed she had a terminal illness when she persuaded an OB/GYN to terminate her second-trimester, according to the Arizona Republic.

"Over all this time, over all these years, why does she continue to insist that she has cancer?," Zeitner's attorney, Adam Schwartz, told jurors during closing arguments in April, according to Fox affiliate KSAZ. "The reason is because she believes it, that's what she believes to be the situation. It's not a misrepresentation, it's not a lie if you believe what you're saying."

Jurors didn't bite.

Nearly four months later, Zeitner, who was already incarcerated, has again been convicted of fraud in a separate case involving a veterans organization, the Republic reported.

This week, Maricopa County jurors found the 31-year-old guilty of "two counts of fraud schemes, two counts of theft, and one count each of money laundering, identity theft and receiving an item obtained by fraudulent use of a credit card," the paper, citing court records, reported.

Prosecutors argued that Zeitner - using the personal information of the founder of Veterans Hope charities and his family members - opened a fraudulent credit card account that she used to rack $25,000 in bills that she never paid off, according to a statement released by the Arizona attorney general's office.

Prosecutors also accused Zeitner - under the guise of working with Veterans Hope and Armed Forces Racing - of contacting the Veteran Tickets Foundation and claiming she was planning a fundraising gala in Washington.

According to the statement, she convinced the nonprofit, which provides veterans discounted tickets to sporting events, arts activities and family events, to sponsor a placeholder on a race car that would be revealed at the gala. The sponsorship cost: $10,000.

Zeitner gave the organization wire instructions that resulted in the money being deposited into a personal account, the statement said. In addition to the sponsorship fee, The Veteran Tickets Foundation spent several thousand dollars buying gala tickets through Zeitner's personal PayPal account.

Prosecutors accused Zeitner of using the funds to buy personal items.

"The gala was not held and none of the funds were returned to the Veteran Tickets Foundation," the statement noted.

Zeitner assumed multiple identities as she carried out her scheme, including a Marine Corps veteran, a race-car driver, and a South African lawyer, the Republic reported.

The investigation was carried out by the Arizona attorney general and the FBI. Her sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 8 in Maricopa County Superior Court.

"Individuals who prey upon the kindness of others for their own personal gain will be aggressively prosecuted by this office," Attorney General Mark Brnovich said. "This case is a great example of law enforcement agencies working together to uncover the facts and make sure Zeitner is held accountable for her actions."

At the conclusion of her trial in April, Zeitner was found guilty on 11 counts of fraud and forgery stemming from her successful attempt of having the state cover her abortion cost, according to the Republic. Prosecutors said she presented information to her obstetrician that convinced the doctor she had stage IV sarcoma and was scheduled to resume treatment in Boston, according to a statement released by the Arizona Attorney General's Office.

The treatment, she told doctors, would remove tumors in her abdomen and lower spine, the statement said. Prosecutors would later claim that Zeitner falsified medical records and listed the name of a physician in those records who told investigators that he never treated Zeitner for cancer or even met her.

Her sentencing in that case is scheduled for Aug. 12, the Republic, citing court records, reported.

"The evidence is clear that Ms. Zeitner made misrepresentations about her treatment," prosecutor Scott Blake said, according to KSAZ. "Not that she believed that she had Cancer, but clear misrepresentations."

"This is a sophisticated con artist, she knows when to turn it on and when to turn it off," he added. "She clicked that switch. When it was time to grieve, she grieved."

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