Published: 16:26, 20 November 2020
| Updated: 17:23, 20 November 2020
A mum faked cancer to pocket £45,000 of donations to fund a "horrendous" gambling problem, a jury has ruled.
Nicole Elkabbass, 42, also used her ill-gotten gains for jaunts abroad, hotels, restaurants and nearly £4,000 worth of Tottenham Hotspur tickets.
The former Harrods fashion consultant posted a picture of herself in a hospital bed on GoFundMe in 2017.
The mum-of-one, from Broadstairs, claimed she needed to pay for life-saving cancer treatment, then transferred tens of thousands from well-wishers - convinced she was dying - into her personal bank account.
The page said the "loving mum" who was "recently diagnosed" needed cash for life-saving treatment.
It came with a photo portraying Elkabbass as frail, laying on her back in a hospital bed under a blanket, eyes closed and mouth open.
But the picture was actually taken after she had an operation to remove her gall bladder months before.
Elkabbass’s deception was unearthed after the consultant oncologist, who gave her the all-clear just weeks before, discovered the scam page called ‘Nicole Needs Our Help Treatment’, seemingly written by her mum Doleris, who actually suffers from the deadly disease.
Her former friend and leading London gynaecologist Dr Nicholas Morris also happened on the GoFundMe page - where she claimed to be in a Spanish hospital - and realised the snap had actually been taken at the Spencer Hospital in Margate.
When police began exploring cracks in Elkabbass’s labyrinth of untruths it emerged Barcelona’s Teknon Clinic, where she said she was staying, had never heard of her.
The doctor she claimed was in charge of her treatment, Filipe Suarez, didn’t exist, according to Spanish medical officials.
But an investigation into her bank account revealed heavy online and casino gambling, almost £4,000 paid to Spurs, and thousands splurged on four star hotels in the centre of Barcelona, restaurants and a visit to the Sagrada Família, while claiming to be unwell.
Elkabbass, of previous good character, tried convincing the jury her friend Dr Morris diagnosed her with ovarian cancer at an office in Dollis Hill, London in January 2018.
The former M&S worker said the doctor then began “bombarding her”, handing over £25,000 for state-of-the-art treatment in Barcelona, but then suddenly blocked her calls and texts.
She added she was a recovering gambling addict of 10 years, saying her habit had become “horrendous”, “erratic” and “extreme” by 2017, causing her to “panic” when Dr Morris offered the windfall.
Giving evidence, Dr Morris told jurors he had never treated Elkabbass in a professional capacity and the money was, in fact, a loan she’d asked for.
He went on to point out a gynaecologist is unqualified to diagnose, treat or advise cancer patients.
“She has never been a patient of mine and she has never been to see me at any hospitals or the clinics I work in,” he added.
The court heard Elkabbass kept some 15,000 members of Facebook’s Latte Lounge page - a group for women over 40 - updated on her phantom illness and treatment.
After posting she would go on to include a link to GoFundMe, even engaging members in personal conversations about her plight, urging some to transfer thousands of pounds via Bacs rather than the crowdsourcing page.
The jury convicted Elkabbass, of Edge End Road, of fraud and possession of criminal property, namely charitable donations.
It returned majority verdicts of nine to one on two counts.
Judge Mark Weekes referred to Elkabbass as a "fantasist" and wanted to spread the message "far and wide" that the allegations against the doctors were a deceitful make-believe.
He said Elkabbass was convicted on "clear and compelling evidence" and told her to expect to be jailed when she is sentenced on February 5.
She was released on bail until the hearing.