true crime

After surviving sex trafficking, Coco claimed to have stage 3 cancer. Police say she made it up.

Coco Berthmann was an inspiration to all who heard her story. 

Growing up in Germany, the 27-year-old was subjected to horrific abuse when she was sex trafficked by someone who was meant to love her most. 

"I was trafficked for the first 15 years of my life by my own mother," she told The Skinny Confidential podcast.

"Whatever you’re born into, it’s your normal. For me, being born into trafficking, I didn’t know I was being abused…we were never allowed to talk about anything that happened behind closed doors."

She even bravely recalled the moment she escaped in 2009, sneaking downstairs to steal some money from her mother’s wallet before “I ran as fast as I could until I couldn’t feel my legs”. 

After eventually moving to America, Berthmann became a passionate human rights advocate and spoke out in the hopes of preventing more children from suffering the same fate. 

In an incredible tale of overcoming adversity, she got a law degree and became the founder of the Coco Berthmann Scholarship Fund, providing trafficking survivors with access to higher education. 

Berthmann also gained a loyal following and regularly spoke at events including the Human Trafficking Policy and Education Summit. 

"I think it’s so important to start building a safe environment for individuals to come forward so that they feel brave," Berthmann said at the Summit in 2021. 

"I think we are at a point now where we have to address it and have to build the system of safety and security where people can feel brave enough to come forward and not be traumatised in the process."

Listen to how Australian woman Belle Gibson fooled thousands into believing she had cancer. Post continues below. 


But in January 2022, Berthmann’s life was turned upside down when she told her legion of loyal followers on Instagram she’d been diagnosed with Stage 3 Mantle Cell Lymphoma. 

After initially being treated at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, Berthmann said she was seeking alternative treatments with specialists in Alaska and Chicago. 

She then launched a GoFundMe campaign with the help of a friend to support her treatment – eventually raising more than $9,000 USD. 

But not everything was as it seemed. 

Just a month later, Berthmann was arrested and charged, as police alleged she had faked her diagnosis to collect thousands in donations.

According to an arrest report, Berthmann was described as "a habitual liar throughout the years," KSL published. 

It also stated that she had previously claimed to have stage 4 cancer that was miraculously cured.

Investigators also alleged Berthmann had never been a patient at Huntsman Cancer Institute. 

In February, she plead guilty to wrongful appropriation and a class A misdemeanour. 

She now faces a year of probation and must repay $900 each month until she reaches the $9,901 in restitution.

But the case has now thrown Berthmann’s entire inspirational story into question and she is set to become the subject of the new podcast Believable: The Coco Berthmann Story, by award-winning journalist Sara Ganim and reporter Karen Given. 

Image: Facebook.