Hannah Millbrandt was just seven years old when her mum, Teresa, told her that she had cancer.
Hannah had just come back from a doctor’s appointment because of a “mild fever and a cough” – she didn’t feel too under the weather – but Teresa said that a subsequent scan revealed a malignant tumour that “could be terminal” at the base of her spine.
Her father broke down when he heard the news.
But then, months into her ‘illness,’ her mum, dad and grandma were arrested.
It was “out of the blue,” the Ohio-based 21-year-old told The Mirror UK. “It all ended as suddenly as it had begun when Mum, Dad and Grandma were all arrested.”
What soon came to light is the elaborate plan Teresa had constructed to fool Hannah and their small-town community that the young girl was seriously sick.
That plan, it was later revealed during court proceedings, scammed their community out of AU$38,230 in donations they believed were going towards Hannah's treatment.
"After an article in the local newspaper, donations came flooding in," said Hannah.
Their church donated AU$8,635 from bake sales, and the local firefighters gave her a puppy she called Socks. She said that people even gave them their "ring pulls from soft drink cans" that her mum could cash in for recycling.