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Cancer scam stuns N.Y. community

Ozarowski looked frail and gaunt.

Ozarowski looked frail and gaunt.

MILLER PLACE, N.Y. — Prosecutors allege that a 21-year-old resident of this middle-class Long Island suburban community faked a bout with cancer and scammed people out of thousands of dollars to feed a growing addiction to heroin.

Those who took one look at Brittany Ozarowski had no reason to doubt she was battling cancer. Her face was drawn and gaunt. She weighed a mere 80 pounds, hobbled gingerly on a cane, and complained of the toll chemotherapy and radiation treatments were taking.

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Neighbors and friends put donation jars on store counters, pulled cash out of their pockets, and organized fund-raisers. Ozarowski also had a website showing her in a wheelchair next to the plea: ‘‘Help Save My Life.’’

But then people began to wonder: Why didn’t she lose her hair after chemotherapy? Why didn’t she show up for a free exam at a neurologist? Why did she hang up when a cancer charity offered $10,000 in treatments paid directly to a hospital? ‘‘There was no cancer, no chemotherapy or radiation,’’ Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota said. ‘‘All there was was heroin and more heroin.’’

Prosecutors say there is no way of knowing how much Ozarowski pocketed because many of the donations were in cash.

Prosecutors say she has a history of drug arrests dating to 2010. Her attorney, George Duncan, said if the allegations of a drug problem are true, Ozarowski needs help or rehabilitation.

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