Serial bride’s cancer scams go back decades: ex-husband
A woman accused of taking donations in a fake pregnancy and terminal breast cancer scam has spun a web of lies and deceit dating back nearly two decades, her third ex-husband claims.
Dawn Brown, 45, of Cleveland, is under criminal investigation by police in her hometown after she allegedly took donations from people who thought she was pregnant and had terminal breast cancer. But police sources told WEWS that both of those claims are apparently untrue.
Police sources also told the station that Brown’s seventh husband, Kenneth Brown — who retired from the Cleveland Police Department last week after 24 years — is also the subject of an internal investigation, but it’s unclear if he was involved in the alleged scam.
Brown, whose maiden name is Vandevelde, divorced her most recent ex-husband in October 2017, according to court records obtained by the station. One month later, when her divorce was finalized in Stark County, Brown had married Ken Brown in Lorain County, court records show.
Brown earlier told people on social media that she was expecting a girl sometime in December, but that date was later pushed back to January. The alleged web of deceit in Brown’s seventh marriage closely mirrors the behavior that doomed her third marriage, one of her former husbands told the station.
Jared Hoeh said he met Brown in 2001 on a singles chat line after recently moving to the Cleveland area. After dating for two months, Brown told Hoeh that she was pregnant with triplets. Brown told him she had terminal leukemia as well, two unexpected announcements that prompted a hasty engagement and wedding ceremony.
“I came from a split home,” Hoeh told WEWS. “I wanted to do the right thing.”
Hoeh married Brown on May 3, 2001, but Hoeh was unaware that his new wife had actually been married to another man, Matthew Baon, while they were dating. Brown’s marriage was not officially dissolved until May 2, 2001, court records show.
An examination of court records by the station revealed that five of Brown’s marriages were held within days of a previous union ending and only once did she spend more than a month between getting hitched.
Hoeh said he knew something was wrong when Brown gave him fake sonogram pictures, which he then showed to his mother, a nurse, who quickly noticed that the photos showed a fetus that was too far developed to be his child.
“She covered her tracks extremely well,” Hoeh said.
Hoeh eventually started calling the hospital to confirm Brown’s appointments before realizing his wife of two months wasn’t actually pregnant. He then moved out and later filed for an annulment, which was finalized in December 2001. Hoeh said Brown appeared at a court hearing with another man and was already wearing a new engagement ring.
Hoeh said he hasn’t communicated with Brown since that final hearing.
Cleveland.com reported last week that Brown was being investigated by police in connection to a GoFundMe.com account to raise money for herself and her seventh husband, Kenneth Brown, who retired last week amid an internal investigation to determine if he was aware that she was faking her illness. The fundraiser was later removed, but a cached version of the post showed that $725 in donations were made in one week.
Dawn Brown has not been criminally charged, but an investigation is ongoing, Cleveland police Sgt. Jennfer Ciaccia told the newspaper.
Investigators, meanwhile, warned a local hospital last week that Brown might even try to steal a baby from its maternity ward.
“Based on information we received from the Cleveland Police Department, we have taken extra measures to ensure patients are safe and secure at Fairview Hospital,” a statement from the Cleveland Clinic Fairview Hospital said. “We take this matter seriously and want to reassure our patients that their safety is our top priority.”
Brown is “currently running an ongoing scam involving a fake pregnancy” and has scouted the hospital’s maternity ward, Cleveland.com reported.
Calls seeking additional comment from Ciaccia were not immediately returned Tuesday. Brown’s attorney, Joseph Patituce, did not return a message seeking comment.