A Jamaica Plain woman pleaded guilty Friday to lying about being a victim of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing to bilk a charity and local school out of money.
Joanna Leigh was sentenced to one year in a house of corrections, suspended for a three-year probabtionary term. Leigh was indicted in March for duping The One Fund out of $40,000 by claiming she’d been injured in the terror attack.
Leigh admitted to five counts of larceny over $250 by false pretenses and one count of making false claims to a government agency. The judge also required her to undergo a mental health evaluation, perform 300 hours of community service, and pay back the money she swindled from the charity, which was established to help bombing victims.
“This defendant exploited the compassion of people and agencies who wanted to help those in need,” Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley said in a prepared statement. “Every dollar she received was stolen from someone who truly deserved it.”
According to the District Attorney, Leigh was at the Marathon on April 15, but left the area prior to the two pressure cooker bombs that maimed over 160 people and killed three.
She was not injured and did not seek medical treatment until about two weeks later, when she claimed to have suffered a traumatic brain injury running toward the second blast site to help the wounded.
According to the District Attorney, Leigh obtained:
· About $900 in cosmetic dermatology services for facial redness, a procedure she had already undergone at least once prior to the bombings.
· About $9,350 through a GoFundMe page she created, using another person’s name and likeness to suggest that she was badly injured in the bombing and not receiving assistance.
· About $18,000 in cash and services through the Massachusetts Victims of Violent Crime Compensation program.
· About $1,850 in cash through a fundraiser held by students and faculty at the Mildred Avenue Middle School in Mattapan who believed she was a Marathon bombing victim.
· About $8,000 through the One Fund waging a campaign accusing the charity of malfeasance when it sought the medical records necessary to categorize her in the same group as those who were killed, underwent double amputations, or suffered permanent brain damage.
The DA said that the prosecution would also have shown that she altered, misrepresented, and sought to amend her medical records to bolster her false claim.
“At every step, she lied and withheld information to generate money, services, and sympathy for herself,” Conley said. “While others were asking how they could help, she was asking how she could benefit.”
Boston Police and Suffolk prosecutors built the case by examining financial and medical records, video surveillance, witness testimony, medical opinions, Leigh’s statements to investigators in the days following the bombing, and the different and contradictory stories she began to tell to local and national news media weeks later.