MURRIETA (CBSLA.com) — Cristina Lagman told friends and neighbors in Riverside County that she had terminal cancer.
Donations poured in. Sympathy poured in. Then money and gifts poured in.READ MORE: How To Watch The 2021 Primetime Emmy Awards
The only problem was Lagman, 39, didn’t have cancer.
She was convicted of theft by false pretenses. Lagman will be sentenced Monday.
One of her victims spoke Wednesday to KCAL9’s Crystal Cruz.
“See that pink bag? That’s the bag she had three of them going around the room. It says ‘Cancer sucks’ and everyone was putting cash in them,” said Valerie Cortes, one of the many people who fell for Lagman’s scam.
“She was very believable. She was very convincing. She wrote long messages on her Facebook page that were just so heart wrenching about being scared and alone,” says Cortes.
Cortes chipped in a couple hundred bucks, so did many others at a few different fundraisers around Murrieta.READ MORE: Man Struck Multiple Times In Daylight Shooting In Riverside
“It struck a cord with me. I have three friends that are fighting for their life right now,” Cortes said.
She said Lagman even looked the part of a cancer victim; the “patient” even shaved her head. But Cortes says when she started asking pointed questions, Lagman’s answers didn’t pass the sniff test.
Cortes tipped off Murrieta police after learning Lagman had been convicted of fraud and embezzlement in the past.
“She said on Facebook anybody that doesn’t believe me is more than welcome to take me to the doctor and pay the bill, and I said I’ll do it, and she immediately unfriended me,” Cortes said.
According to court documents, Lagman showed investigators a letter from a doctor who said she had cancer, but police quickly learned the letter was phony and Lagman was arrested.
On Wednesday, the cancer liar pleaded guilty to theft on false pretenses, a big relief to Cortes.
“I want other people to ask questions. Don’t just believe somebody because they say it and they shave their head,” Cortes said.MORE NEWS: Emmys Vow A Good Time After Bleak Year; 'Crown' May Rule
Lagman will be sentenced next month. She’s likely to get less than three years in jail. Officials said she will have to refund her victims the money she took at places like the Ace Comedy Club in Murrieta.