Police: Couple made up cancer story to raise cash for attorney

Police: Couple made up cancer story to raise cash for attorney
(AP Photo/Twin Falls County Sheriff's Office)

BUHL, Idaho (AP) — A south-central Idaho couple is charged with raising money to pay for what they said was their daughter's leukemia treatment, when the husband acknowledged they were trying to raise money to pay for an attorney to try to regain custody of the 14-year-old girl.

Police in Buhl arrested Michael and Lisa Holley on Saturday at the site of a planned car wash and raffle fundraiser after undercover detectives with the Idaho State Police offered the couple $1,200. The detectives told the woman several times they wanted to make sure the donation would go to the girl's cancer treatment, the police report said.

Both parents said the money would go to cover their daughter's medical costs, the report said, and they were arrested.

Michael and Lisa Holley are each charged with grand theft by deception, The Times-News reported Wednesday. Michael Holley's bail was set at $50,000 while his wife's was $5,000.

Twin Falls County Prosecutor Grant Loebs said the Holleys were appointed public defenders, but efforts by The Associated Press to contact that office Wednesday weren't immediately successful.

Police learned about the case when a neighbor who saw a newspaper story about the weekend fundraiser called Thursday to report the Holleys told her in July that they wanted to raise money to hire an attorney to regain custody of their daughter, who was living with relatives in Seattle, police Chief Eric Foster said.

Officers contacted the relatives and learned the girl is not ill and that the she was removed from Lisa Holley's care by Health and Welfare in Yakima County, Wash. Holley was not allowed to have contact with the girl, even by telephone.

Once in custody, Michael Holley told police the money was going to help pay an attorney fee of $750 for the custody fight.

Several local businesses donated raffle prizes and other money.

Officers recovered donated items and gift certificates worth $310.

"We don't know how far reaching this goes," Foster said. "Right now, both officers from our department and Idaho State Police are doing follow-up interviews."

The Idaho Charitable Solicitation Act states that it is illegal to use unfair, false, deceptive, misleading or unconscionable acts in planning or conducting charitable solicitation.

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Information from: The Times-News