Cancer fraudster's crime 'greed not need'
LESS than an hour after being sentenced to prison for her lengthy cancer fraud, Melissa Quinn was walking free on bail.
The Casino woman who faked multiple bouts of brain, leg and ovarian cancer between 2014 and 2016, sat in silence as Magistrate David Heilpern handed down her sentence at Casino Local Court today.
Mr Heilpern sentenced her to two years' prison, with a nine month non-parole period, for her four charges of dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception and making and using a fake doctor's letter.
For her other two charges of making and using a false document for financial advantage - relating to a fake doctor's email - she was given a three-year good behaviour bond.
But defence barrister Simon Priestley quickly launched an appeal against the sentence, and Quinn was released on conditional bail.
She is expected to front Lismore District Court for an appeal hearing, with a date yet to be set.
In sentencing her, Mr Heilpern took into account Quinn's early guilty pleas, and the hardship imprisonment would have on her four children and acknowledged her mental health issues.
But he rejected defence barrister Simon Priestley's argument Quinn could reasonably serve a non-custodial sentence.
He said despite the large amount of money raised through various events from 2014 to 2016, Casino was a "financially challenged community" and said Quinn's actions, which took advantage of their generosity, were "mind-boggling".
"This was all a lie," Mr Heilpern said.
"She used the money to holiday in the United States.
"The offender told lies to the psychologist, that she had treatment in the United States."
He said her actions were "pre-planned, ongoing and deliberate" and amounted to "a crime of greed, not need".
"To prey on the sympathies of kind-hearted people for gain, to continue this sneaky, appalling behaviour... must be condemned in the harshest possible terms," he said.
"There is a broad breach of trust... with the community at large.
"There are innumerable victims of this offending.
"In this case it's necessary to send a very clear message."
He said there was "no evidence" a term of imprisonment would be unusually onerous.
Quinn remained silent as she was led into custody, but wept when Mr Priestley outlined the impact a custodial sentence would have on her family.
Mr Priestley said her offending, which took place from 2014 to 2016, was underpinned by childhood abuse, three subsequent violent relationships and "mental health concerns".
While he tendered written submissions to the court, along with a psychologist's report and references from Heartfelt House and Casino High School, Mr Priestley still spoke at length about his client's situation.
He told the court Quinn had heard "two voices": one telling her she was unwell, another saying what she was doing was wrong.
He said his client felt she was "at war with herself" as a result of her extensive web of lies which involved numerous fake tumours and fake treatments.
Mr Priestley said the "significant community backlash" had "gone beyond what was appropriate".
"She's received threats, her children have been harassed," he said.
"Her greatest concern about all of this is what happens to her children."
Casino resident Kathy Johnston said she feared Quinn's actions could harm future, genuine, fundraising efforts in the community.
"It takes away their trust," she said.
"People die from (cancer) every day and don't get any help and they struggle.
"And she had no struggle, she just had a bloody holiday."