WEATHER ALERT

Ill teen’s trust fund raided: police

Aunt accused of taking money meant for heart-transplant costs

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She's waiting for a heart transplant that could come at any moment but now has to deal with the heart-breaking news her aunt has been arrested for allegedly stealing from a trust fund set up to pay her medical bills.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/03/2011 (4330 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

She’s waiting for a heart transplant that could come at any moment but now has to deal with the heart-breaking news her aunt has been arrested for allegedly stealing from a trust fund set up to pay her medical bills.

“I think she’s a b

-,” said Jessica Bondar from her room at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal Thursday. “Honestly, I have no nice words for her. This (the $40,000 raised) was money to help me get better.”

Family photo Jessica Bondar in a recent portrait.

 

Winnipeg police announced Thursday they’d arrested and charged a 38-year-old woman for stealing money raised to help the critically ill teenager.

Bondar, 19, has battled health issues since April 2009, when she went on life-support after suffering heart failure as a complication from the influenza A virus.

Fundraising efforts to support Bondar kicked off soon after, including an auction of a tutu once worn by ballet great Evelyn Hart.

Police said Bondar’s aunt opened a trust account and thousands of dollars were donated — but Bondar saw little of it. Instead, police say, Bondar’s aunt began using the cash for herself.

“She’s my aunt. You don’t (steal) in the first place and you especially don’t do it to family. She can’t get any worse,” Bondar said.

Her mother, Charlotte Roy, and sister of the woman now charged, said she’s relieved police have made an arrest.

“We found out it was missing when we had to start paying for some of the medications that weren’t covered. That’s what the money was for,” Roy said.

The family now says they’ve spent “every dime” they have paying for the injections she needs that cost $500 a week.

“Not only was Jessica wronged but every person that donated money that maybe wouldn’t have,” she said.

The plucky teen made headlines months after she survived her deadly illness, with the Free Press reporting in June 2009 on her graduation with the rest of her St. James Collegiate class.

The mother and daughter now both live in the Montreal area. Bondar has been in and out of hospital after battling woes like pneumonia, a broken heart pump, blood transfusions and a bleeding kidney since moving permanently to Quebec in late 2009, said her mother. Bondar also still uses a walker to move herself around.

“For the most part, she’s doing really well. She’s physically stronger, she’s spiritually stronger, for sure. And she spends most of her time visiting the other patients, talking to them,” said Roy.

Police say the woman accused of stealing from Bondar began withdrawing cash between June and October 2009.

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Despite illness, Bondar managed to graduate with her classmates from St. James Collegiate in June 2009.

In November 2009, officers from the Winnipeg Police Service commercial crime unit began an investigation into the missing money.

The ill teenager only ever saw a “fraction” of what was raised for her future medical needs, said a police spokesman.

“At one point, the victim in this matter did make attempts to retrieve money from that account, and it was found that the account was for the most part exhausted. There was no money to be found at that point,” said Winnipeg Police Service spokesman Const. Jason Michalyshen.

Michalyshen urged Winnipeggers to take proper steps to safeguard charitable donations or funds left in trust.

“Winnipeggers are typically very generous with regard to putting their money forward for good causes, so I want to be careful that other organizations that are legitimate and have registered trust accounts… they’re doing good things and we want people to continue to have that giving spirit, but certainly, we have to be careful.”

The woman is facing charges of fraud over $5,000 and theft over $5,000. She was released on a promise to appear. Police have not released the woman’s name, but family confirms it’s Sheryl Matheson.

Bondar said she has to stay in the hospital awaiting a transplant because when a heart becomes available, the operation will take place within hours.

“It’s very weird hoping for somebody else to die,” she said. “It sucks. I’m here until I get my transplant, which could be today or it could be a year from now.”

She said she believes her aunt has been ordered to repay the missing money.

“I hope so because I’m going to need it when I get out of here. I’m going to be on medication,” she said.

gabrielle.giroday@freepress.mb.ca

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