UPDATE: Prosecutors Filed More Charges in Suspected 'Cancer Scam'

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UPDATE: Fri 3:33 PM, May 9, 2014

A criminal charges have now been filed in Lincoln County against a 19-year-old woman accused of collecting money donors thought they were giving to support medical treatment for a stage III lung cancer diagnosis.

Celina Winchell faces 17 counts of theft by fraud after investigators say she, and her father, placed donation jars at 16 Merrill businesses and were in the process of having the Eagle's Nest host a pancake breakfast.

Celina's father, Edmund, is charged with the same counts.

Celina faces an additional count of obstructing an officer after she's accused of lying about being diagnosed with cancer to her friends on Facebook last November.

One Merrill business employee told police both Celina and Edmund had come in together asking if a donation jar could be put out.

According to court documents, family members told investigators Celina's buzzed haircut, was due to a bad dye job, not chemotherapy.

Celina is expected to be formally charged June 25.

She's already charged in Marathon County for collecting funds from a donation jar at a Wausau business.

UPDATE: Tues 4:20 PM, April 29, 2014

The Lincoln County District Attorney's office said Celina Winchell is expected to be charged in their jurisdiction in the coming days.

Winchell is a 19-year-old Merrill woman suspected of lying about a cancer diagnosis. She's charged in Marathon County with obstructing an officer and theft after a friend put out a donation jar and Celina is accuse of collecting the money.

Officers from the Wausau Police Department say Winchell claims she only told people there was a 'possibility', she had cancer and denied collecting any money. But, police say they reviewed screen-shots of her Facebook page from last November in which she said she had been diagnosed with cancer and could not pay for treatment.

Celina's father, Edmund Winchell is charged in Lincoln County after investigators say he collected money from donation jar there, and deposit the money into his bank account.

The Lincoln County District Attorney's office said they are reviewing the case now and are expected to charge out the case shortly.


UPDATE: Friday 6:45 PM, April 18.2014

The father of the Merrill woman accused of pretending to have cancer and then soliciting donations is now facing charges himself.

Edmund Winchell is charged with sixteen counts of theft by false representation after police allege that he collected donations intended for his daughter Celina's supposed cancer treatments and deposited the money into his own account.

His daughter is never believed to have had cancer at all.
While the focus of the investigation began with Celina, it quickly expanded to her father as well.

"Mostly it came to speaking to a lot of the business owners. Then, getting the information from them that showed that he did in fact have knowledge of this being fraudulent and had still gone and solicited donations with his daughter. " says Merrill Police Officer Tyler Tesch.

Edmund Winchell is free on a $2,000 signature bond.
Celina Winchell is facing similar charges in Marathon County, where some of the collection jars were also put in place.
She is expected to be charged in Lincoln County as well.

UPDATE: Thurs 2:55 PM, Mar 20, 2014

A 19-year-old Merrill woman suspected of lying about a cancer diagnosis is facing an additional charge of theft.

Earlier this month, prosecutors filed a charge of obstructing an officer against Celina Winchell. According to court documents, Winchell posted a status on her Facebook page on Nov. 4 saying she had lung cancer. Additional posts reportedly eluded to the fact that Winchell could not afford treatment.

The news prompted a friend to put out a donation jar at an area business. An employee at one of the jar collection sites, Sam's Pizza in Wausau, became suspicious after she said Celina would randomly stop in the business and take money from the jar without saying anything to employees. The employee also told police the money had not been used on medical treatment, but pizza and cigarettes.

When questioned by investigators, Winchell reportedly told the officer she never said for sure she had cancer, but only that it was a possibility.

Winchell entered not guilty pleas Thursday to the charges of obstructing an officer and theft.

Celina Winchell remains behind bars in the Marathon County Jail.

Investigators in Lincoln County have also confirmed a similar investigation there, however no criminal charges have yet been filed.

A one day trial has been scheduled for June 26.

UPDATE: Mon 6:59 PM, Mar 17, 2014

The 19-year-old Merrill woman accused of pretending to have lung cancer and then using donated money to buy things like food and cigarettes is in the Marathon County Jail. It's a story Newschannel 7 first broke on Friday.

Celina Winchell is expected to be charged Thursday with obstructing an officer.

A friend of Celina's who worked at Sam's Pizza in Wausau set up a collection jar there, as well as at other businesses in Marathon and Lincoln County.

While she initially believed Celina's story, she says that she grew suspicious after Celina came in to pick up the money and appeared to be spending it on other things.

"You are supposed to set it up in a bank account. Then, usually when people have a money jar set up, someone will come in and document all of the money but it was just going right in her pocket." says Celina's former friend Danielle Friederich.

Fridereich says that once she grew suspicious about Celina's cancer she had the jars removed and she and her boss contacted police.

Story Update:
A Wausau woman who knitted a hat in order to help alleged cancer victim, Celina Winchell is speaking out.

Kelly Guillaume first read about Celina's struggles on Facebook and decided she wanted to knit the 19-year-old a custom hat. Guillaume even delivered the hat to Celina at home.

"She did say to me that she was in stage 4 cancer, she didn't know how long she had to live." Guillaume said.

Now that Kelly knows that Celina's cancer may not have been real, she is filled with a variety of emotions.

"I think it is really sad that she did this. It is sad for all the other people that are fighting cancer every day that need help." Kelly says.
A Merrill woman is expected to be charged with obstructing an officer when she appears in court on March 20.

Police say 19-year-old Celina Winchell lead people to believe she had lung cancer, prompting a friend to place a collection jar at businesses to help pay her medical bills. But officers say she took the money and spent it on other things.

The investigation got started when police were called to Sam's Pizza in Wausau in February.

An employee at the restaurant said they had a collection jar for Winchell set up after she was reportedly diagnosed with lung cancer and could not afford treatment. But then, the staff got suspicious when Winchell started showing up to collect money from the jar. The witness says she used it and money from a jar at a Merrill business to buy cigarettes and a pizza instead of for medical treatment.

Officers say Winchell claims she only told people there was a 'possibility', she had cancer and denied collecting any money. But, police say they reviewed screen-shots of her Facebook page from last November in which she said she had been diagnosed with cancer and could not pay for treatment.

Police in Merrill also say a collection jar was also set up at a business in that city and are investigating a similar crime, though they have not confirmed it's the same case.

Celina Winchell is expected to be formally charged next Thursday in Marathon County Circuit Court.

NewsChannel 7 tried to contact her Friday afternoon, but was not successful.

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