Fake cancer survivor avoids jail

HANOVER, VA (WWBT) - A Hanover woman avoids jail time after admitting she took money pretending to be a cancer survivor.

Martha Nicolas' attorney says her mental illness made her believe she really was sick.

Nicholas pled guilty last month but a judge would not accept her plea agreement because it did not include jail time. Monday a different judge accepted a similar agreement that also does not include jail time.

Her story seemed too good to be true - that's because it wasn't.

Nicholas became an outspoken activist. She inspired others telling them she beat cancer not once - but four times. Police say there's no evidence to suggest she ever had cancer at all.

Her lawyer told us she was sick, just not the way everyone believed.

"We weren't dealing with a physical illness, we were dealing with a psychiatric illness," said Nicholas' attorney Sam Simpson. "That was really manifesting itself through her actions."

She raised roughly $12,000, most of that going to the American Cancer Society. Her lawyer says she took about $2000 herself, saying it was for medical expenses. He says she's now paid that money back.

"Martha is regretful that people that made donations feel betrayed," Simpson said. "That was a product of her illness."

Nicholas' attorney says she genuinely believed she had cancer.

Part of her plea agreement includes a $50 fine for both of her charges of taking money under false pretenses. She's also not allowed to work for a charitable or civic organization, raise funds or speak on behalf of a charity for five years. If she does, she could spend a year in jail.

"She was misrepresenting herself as a victim of cancer," said Commonwealth's Attorney Trip Chalkley. "We were convinced that was not the case and I didn't think any other group should be tainted by her involvement."

Nicholas has ten days to appeal, but there are no indications at this point that she plans on appealing.

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