By Geoff Liesik, Deseret News
VERNAL – When Sue Hatch heard Christina Lundblad had been diagnosed with cancer, she says she was heartbroken.
“It was a very tender spot for my family,” said Hatch, who lost her husband to cancer three years ago.
Lundblad was teaching second grade at the time at Discovery Elementary School, where she had been mentored by one of Hatch’s daughters during her first years in the classroom.
“I loved (Lundblad) like she was one of mine,” Hatch said. “My heart ached.”
Hatch decided to decorate a Christmas tree for the annual Trees for Charity auction in Vernal, and give the money to Lundblad to help cover medical expenses. The tree brought in $7,000 with another $170 collected in a donation jar set at its base.
“I was knocked off my feet by the price paid for the tree,” Hatch said.
As planned, all the money went to Lundblad, who had told people she was receiving treatment at a cancer center in Denver and at Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City. There was just one problem: Lundblad didn’t have cancer, according to court records.
“(I) was unable to find any medical claim record indicating Christina Lundblad received any medical services in the state of Colorado from August 2012 (to) July 9, 2015,” Vernal police detective Mike Tribe wrote in two search warrant affidavits.
A review of Lundblad’s insurance records also failed to turn up any medical claims for treatment at Huntsman Cancer Institute, Tribe wrote in the affidavits, which sought Lundblad’s medical records from Huntsman and from Ashley Regional Medical Center in Vernal.
Tribe had asked Lundblad and her husband to provide the medical records to him when he met with them in May. He said they agreed to hand them over but asked for time to collect them. The couple never provided the records and subsequently moved out of Vernal, Tribe wrote.
Based on the information the detective gathered from records obtained by the search warrants and from interviews with people who were allegedly misled by Lundblad, prosecutors have charged the 31-year-old woman with communications fraud, a second-degree felony.
The alleged fraud first came to light in April when a woman contacted Vernal police to report that Lundblad was “misleading the public for financial gain,” according to court records. The woman told investigators that Lundblad told her she was undergoing chemotherapy for leukemia in late 2014 and had been treated in the past for malignant tumors in her head and back.
The woman said she began to question Lundblad’s story when Lundblad told people she was having surgery in December to remove tumors from her leg, then sent out an email saying she was cancer free, court records show.
By then, Lundblad had already accepted the money Hatch had raised on her behalf. She and her husband bought a van in January and took a Disney vacation in February, according to the woman who contacted police. The woman said she saw Lundblad wearing shorts a few months later and didn’t see any surgical scars.
The woman said she confronted Lundblad with her suspicions and received an email from Lundblad telling her she didn’t go through with the surgery.
“(Lundblad) stated in the email that the cancer is inoperable and she came home early because she intends to end her life,” Tribe wrote. “(Lundblad) stated she didn’t end her life because of all the support from the community.”
When Tribe met with Lundblad and her husband, he said he was told she was being treated at Huntsman Cancer Institute for tumors in her legs. He said he asked for the name of her doctor, and was told “she has a new doctor and would need to get paperwork to provide a name.”
“Christina stated she couldn’t recall the name because she has so many doctors,” Tribe wrote in court papers. “Christina told (me) that she currently has six different doctors for six different things.”
The detective said Lundblad told him she never asked anyone to raise money on her behalf, but acknowledged that she accepted the money when it was presented to her.
Lundblad is scheduled to make her first court appearance Oct. 19. An effort to reach her Thursday for comment was unsuccessful. She faces up to 15 years in prison, if convicted, but Hatch said that’s not how she hopes the case will end.
“She’s a wonderful person. She needs to know that what she did was wrong,” Hatch said. “I hope she finds the help she needs.”
© Copyright (c) 2015 The Vernal Express, Brehm Communications Inc., All rights reserved.