A FORMER Swan Hill woman will spend the next three months behind bars after pleading guilty in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court to seven charges of obtaining property by deception.
Hanna Dickenson (also spelt Hannah Dickinson), 24, scammed more than $40,000 while posing as a cancer sufferer.
Swan Hill couple Nathan and Rachael Cue were one of the victims of Ms Dickenson's scheme.
The Cue family was heartbroken when they heard the then 19-year-old claimed she had been diagnosed with cancer.
"We had known the (Dickinson) family for several years as their farm neighboured our home," Mrs Cue told The Guardian.
"In fact, Hanna even did a reading at one of our children's naming day ceremony.
"So when the family approached us for assistance in 2014, we felt terrible that didn't have the money to help."
After extending their mortgage, the Cues were assured by Ms Dickenson's father Jeff that the money would be returned within a few months.
In the meantime, Ms Dickenson set about portraying herself as a cancer sufferer desperate to find treatment that could save or prolong her life.
The money loaned by the Cues was supposedly being used to secure treatment from a world renowned German doctor.
"Pretty soon it was obvious things didn't add up," Mr Cue said.
"First there were the Facebook pictures showing Hanna partying at a variety of different places, including overseas.
"She was supposed to be getting treatment in Thailand and New Zealand at one point, but the pictures did not show a sick cancer sufferer, rather a tourist having the time of their life.
"I approached the family about it and asked for my $20,000 back, as the time had passed for them to repay it. Jeff did get me $5000 later that week, but that's the last we ever got back."
As time went on, Ms Dickenson's condition was supposed deteriorating to the point her mother told Mrs Cue that she was in palliative care.
But court documents show Ms Dickenson continued to live the high life, taking trips to Moscow, London and Bali.
"What she did is just cruel," Mr Cue said.
"The catalyst to reporting it to police was the cancer aspect.
"There are so many people struggling and grieving due to cancer, it's a devastating sickness and it just wasn't right for her to prey on that."
After going to police, the Cues discovered their complaint was not the first time an allegation had been made against Ms Dickenson.
In addition to the three-month jail term, Ms Dickenson received 150 hours community service and was ordered to undergo treatment for mental health and substance abuse.
For the Cues, the sentence was proof the justice system does work and urged any other victims of con artists to speak to police.
"Don't be scared to come forward to seek justice because our case proves persistence prevails," Mrs Cue said.
Mr Cue also revealed the personal toll the episode had on him and his family.
"It's so cruel and the damage is not just the monetary loss," he said.
"It caused so much stress and Rachael wasn't sleeping.
"It caused us to be unhappy with where we were living because we didn't want to see them.
"We know of others who have had marriage breakdowns and you just can't put a value on that loss."
Moving forward, Mr Cue said he will now close the door on this part of his life.
Mrs Cue said the family received offers of support and donations to recoup their losses, but asked people to redirect the funds to genuine cancer support organisations such as Cancer Council Australia.
"I've had offers from as far away as the USA and that really restores your faith in humanity," she said.