A fraudster who claimed he was terminally ill with a rare type of cancer in order to net over 260,000 Euros from well-wishers including celebrities will likely avoid prison due to a loophole in Spanish law.
Francisco Jose Sanz Gonzalez de Martos, locally known as Paco Sanz, plead guilty when he appeared before a court in central Madrid during his trial yesterday 8th February.
He admitted conning EUR 264,780 with a story about being terminally ill with only months to live and managed to stretch the yarn out for seven years in which he claimed he was suffering from an incredible 2,000 tumours.
Shocked at the details of his ordeal, which was spread using social media, people had lined up to donate money. He even appeared on national television to talk about his sad story.
He claimed that although he had only months to live, there was expensive medicine that could prolong his life, and as he didn’t have the funds to pay for it appealed to members of the public to support him.
He told followers “I just want to keep on living” and on other occasions would add “My life seems like a nightmare but I still don’t want to lose it”.
Investigators also found him telling followers: “Suddenly, living became my only goal”, “The authorities are ignoring me” and “I’ve used up all of my and my family’s resources”.
Sanz even managed to get the attention of local celebrities such as the Spanish comedian Santi Rodriguez who held a charity gala and raised EUR 3,000 EUR (GBP 2,634) from people who were moved by Sanz’s fake story on 30th May 2013.
Another way he raised money was by writing a book entitled “Paco Sanz, a life of dreams, a life of struggle” in 2013 written by Miguel Hervas Abad which included a prologue by a famous Youtuber ‘AuronPlay’ and an epilogue by a former Spanish water polo athlete turned television presenter Pedro Garcia Aguado.
It is unclear how the alleged con man was discovered, however, local sources said the book’s editor named Alejandro Ruiz Hurtado was the person who reported Sanz to the authorities in January 2017.
The prosecution had initially asked for six years but reduced their sentence to two years, which means that because of the vagaries of Spanish law, as he has no previous convictions it will automatically be suspended.
Local newspaper 20 Minutos explained that two-year sentences or less are usually suspended for five years in Spain during which time if no other laws are broken, the person can avoid prison altogether.
If he receives the two-year sentence Sanz will also have to pay a fine of EUR 8 every day for a period of nine months.
Lucia Carmona, who was Sanz’s girlfriend at the time he was doing the scam, also accepted a one year and nine months sentence after admitting to helping him to raise money.
Both Sanz’s mum and deceased father were also charged for their suspected participation, however, it is unclear how they allegedly helped.
Sanz admitted to the scam and explained he did it to raise money for an experimental treatment he was receiving in the US for Crowden Syndrome which he was reportedly diagnosed with.
It is a genetic disorder that causes benign overgrowths and leads to an elevated risk of developing thyroid, breast or other types of cancer.
He said he received a pension of around EUR 500 a month for his condition but it was not enough to cover all the costs of the trips.
According to local newspaper Nius, Sanz travelled to America around 10 times using the money he obtained from the scam to participate in the experimental treatment which was free.
His final sentence has not yet been decided as several people who fell victim to the scam are expected to appear at the court to give their testimonies.