A childcare worker who scammed her community out of $18,000 by pretending she was dying from cancer has pleaded guilty.
Olivia Ward, 27, admitted in the Southport Magistrates Court on Monday she lied about having a terminal illness before stealing the money from unsuspecting well-wishers who were conned into helping her.
She shaved her head as part of the grift and sought sympathy by telling people in a group text that she’d picked out a coffin because she ‘liked the design’.
Ward had been working at the Amaze after-hours childcare centre in Mudgeeraba on the Gold Coast in February last year when she cooked up the lie.
Her work colleagues and community members all fell for the ploy, and a fundraiser was held for Ward last October.
Childcare worker Olivia Ward (pictured), who scammed her community out of $18,000 by pretending she was dying from cancer, pleaded guilty at Southport Magistrates Court
The fundraiser’s host Chadd Small, who was one of Ward’s victims, was grateful that ‘She finally told the truth.
‘Unfortunately, I thought Olivia did have an end of life journey, along with everybody else, so I happily donated that money to her,’ he told 9News.
‘She’s very convincing. In fact she probably deserves an Oscar or Logie at least for the performance she gave with shaving off her hair.
‘To me, she actually even looked crook.’
Ward wasn’t crook, as in being sick, but she was crook, as in being a criminal.
But some of her actions in perpetrating the crime were sick.
At one point she sent a group text message saying ‘Next bit of info might be heavy…
‘I have finalised and made a choice of coffin and urn when the time comes. Like the design of them.’
Ward (pictured centre) refused to answer any questions when confronted by a Channel Nine reporter
At one point Ward sent a group text message (pictured) saying ‘Next bit of info might be heavy… I have finalised and made a choice of coffin and urn when the time comes. Like the design of them’
The swindle started to unravel last December when she was reported to the police.
In May, Ward was charged with three counts of fraud and one count each of forgery and uttering.
The police said she ‘dishonestly gained money after claiming to have cancer’.
Mr Small, who is a children’s entertainer, lost his sister to a battle with cancer last year and wanted to help Ward in his sibling’s honour.
He had been to the school months before the fundraiser was held, as his company often organises entertainment for children in vacation care.
During the visit, he noticed Ward, who appeared to be visibly ill and was wearing a headscarf.
‘We talked about her treatment and what type of chemotherapy she was on, because I knew all about it after having just lost my sister,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘At the time of the fundraiser I was under the impression she had about four months to live.’
Her colleagues, children at the school and community members had all fallen for the ploy, with a fundraiser even set up for Ward last October
Mr Small said while his sister was in palliative care, she and her family raised money to help support others who were also facing terminal illnesses.
They managed to raise $12,000 and Mr Small donated a further $2,500 to Ward’s fundraiser.
‘I thought my sister would love if I could just help one person and make their life a bit more comfortable,’ he said.
‘Cancer isn’t cheap, the amount of medication you need is enough to send a person broke.’
Mr Small said he handed over the money to Ward at the fundraiser, who took it ‘graciously’.
Ward (pictured in the passenger seat on Monday) will be sentenced later this month
He also had to pay members of his own staff to entertain the children at the fundraiser, so all up gave $4,000 to Ward’s fake cause.
‘We had a sit down conversations about her treatment, the entire school community got behind this,’ he said.
Mr Small said he didn’t know he’d been conned until he got a phone call from police in April.
‘If you could see the amount of people she touched with this story,’ he said.
‘And if you’ve truly ever witnessed someone going through cancer it’s the last illness you’d fake.’
The con has made grieving the loss of his sister all the more difficult.
‘I just wanted that money to do good. I never in a million years thought she didn’t have cancer,’ he said.
Chadd Small (pictured), one of Ward’s victims, said ‘As far as I was aware, she was a very sick individual and as it turns out, she is’
‘The one feeling I feel is embarrassment because I can handle the fact I lost my own money, but it was also some of the money donated when my sister died.’
Ward’s former boss and cofounder of Amaze Education, Phil Mazey, said one child at the school where they offered after-hours care even brought in money from her piggy bank.
‘It was a very believable story,’ he said.
‘As far as I was aware, she was a very sick individual and as it turns out, she is.’
Ward refused to answer any questions when confronted by a Channel Nine reporter on Monday.
She will be sentenced later this month.
This post first appeared on Daily mail