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Investigators: Child tricked to believe he had cancer

Photo: Ginny Irovando Long (left), Robert Long (right)

Photo source: Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office (OCSO)

A mother and father of a 13-year-old boy have been charged with fraud and child abuse for convincing the boy he had terminal brain cancer. Okaloosa County Sheriff's deputies said Ginny Irovando and Robert Long used the lie to raise money, claiming it was for medical and funeral expenses.

The Longs were taken into custody on Thursday at their Fort Walton Beach home. The investigation into the couple began last year. According to an arrest report, in May, the mother told the boy he had seven brain tumors. In November, the couple set up a t-shirt fundraiser at Meigs Middle School, where the boy attended. Nine people bought shirts, thinking the money would go to the boy's medical expenses. Investigators found a GoFundMe page, which has raised almost $1000.

A school resource officer was the one to report the victim was possibly being exploited for financial gain.

Investigators looked through medical records and talked to the boy's doctors. According to the arrest report, there was no sign the boy had cancer or any other terminal illness.

"How could they put a death sentence on their own child?" Janet Cooper asked.

Cooper lost her son to cancer on November 25, 2016. Bryant died of Neuroendocrine Carcinoma 20 months after the diagnosis. He was only 19.

"There is no jail, no prison system in our society that will do to them what they would have endured if their son did truly have brain cancer," Cooper said.

According to the arrest report, the boy believed he had brain cancer and that he was going to die. When investigators asked him about it, he put his head down and said it made him scared.

"My heart just goes out to this family and everybody that's going to be affected by this," Cooper said. "It's just not something that you play with."

The Department of Children and Families has removed the child and another sibling from the home. A spokesperson for the agency told WEAR-TV the children are in foster care pending the outcome of the investigation.

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