Woman charged with scamming $10,950 from fund for Boston bombing victims

BOSTON (Reuters) - A Boston woman has been indicted with fraudulently obtaining US$8,000 (S$10,950) from the fund set up for victims of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, and thousands more from other fundraising, officials said on Thursday.

Investigators found that Joanna Leigh, 41, was at the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013 when two bombs exploded, killing three people and injuring more than 260, but they argued that she was not injured, the Boston Police Department said in a statement.

Leigh was indicted earlier this month by a Suffolk County grand jury on five larceny counts and a charge of making a false claim to the government, the police department said.

It said Leigh received US$8,000 from The One Fund Boston, which raised nearly US$80 million in the aftermath of the attack. She also received a combined US$28,700 from a middle school fundraiser, an online campaign and the Massachusetts Victims of Violent Crime Compensation fund, according to the police statement.

The news comes as the trial of accused bomber, 21-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, takes place in Boston. Tsarnaev could be sentenced to death if he is convicted.

Police said Leigh did not seek medical treatment for about two weeks after the bombing, and when she did, she called herself a "hero" who ran towards the second explosion.

"At a time when most people were asking how they could help, others were wondering how they could benefit," Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley was quoted as saying in the police statement.

Leigh, who is set to be arraigned on Monday, told the Boston Globe newspaper that she was injured in the blast, and that the charges were punishment for her criticising The One Fund Boston over its compensation policies.

"I don't think this is about me; I think this is because I spoke out about The One Fund," she told the Globe. "I think this is about killing the messenger. I went after the governor and the mayor's charity, and I didn't shut up about it, and I caused them trouble."

Several others have also been charged with theft from the fund.

In January a woman from Maine was arrested on charges of scamming US$8,000 from The One Fund, and a New York woman was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty last May to fraudulently collecting US$480,000 from the fund.

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