Coco Berthmann, the Utah human rights advocate at the center of a controversial human trafficking investigation has been arrested.
Reports indicate that Coco Berthmann was apprehended for pretending to have cancer and claiming thousands of dollars in medical expenses.
Currently, the 28-year-old human rights activist is being charged with communications fraud.
Who is Coco Berthmann?
Coco Berthmann real name Sandra-Renata Ruff is a German woman who became popular by advocating against human trafficking.
She claims to have been a victim of that trafficking herself.
According to her, her family trafficked her from her childhood until November 2, 2009 when she ran away from home to the sound of Celine Dion. She told Daily Herald, “I went to the door, put in my iPod, put on ‘Taking Chances’ by Celine Dion then I just ran.” In November 2019, Jamie Brooker and Brooker’s teenage daughters gave her two tickets to Dion’s concert in Salt Lake City, Utah, United States in March 2020.
Berthmann attended Ensign College in Salt Lake City and earned her associate’s degree in marketing by 2021.
From September 2018 to October 2018, Coco Berthmann worked for Lions Digital Agency as social media specialist.
From 2019-2020 Berthman was a board director for ARISE Project in Salt Lake City.
The Story So Far
Coco Berthmann, a known human rights and anti-sex trafficking activist, was apprehended by police after collecting large amounts of money through donations on Gofundme for fake cancer diagnoses.
Before her arrest on Thursday, Berthamann has been vocal about being abused by sex traffickers for more than 15 years.
Berthmann, however, was investigated after police received a tip that she had lied about her condition as having stage three Mantle Cell Lymphoma cancer in order to obtain funds for treatment.”
According to court documents, the complaint alleged that Berthmann has been a habitual liar throughout the years, “claiming Coco’s mother was sending people to the United States to kill her, she had had a stage 4 cancer which was miraculously cured, and she had been raped on many occasions.”
During investigations, police discovered a GoFundMe page raising nearly $10,000 as of Thursday with the name, “Help Coco Fight Cancer,” created by one of Berthmann’s friends.
When police contacted the friend who created the GoFundMe, she explained Berthmann had approached her and said she had been diagnosed with Mantle Cell Lymphoma approximately Jan. 31, 2022.
Berthmann had even showed her medical records stating that she had cancer. While Berthmann did not ask her directly to create a GoFundMe, she had expressed what a financial burden the treatments were.
Police spoke with Berthmann over the phone as she stated she was “too weak to meet in person,” court documents state. She told police she had met with two doctors both in Alaska and Chicago and would email them medical records. Berthmann never sent any medical records to substantiate her claims.
Police wrote a warrant for medical records through the Huntsman Cancer institute and a DOPL warrant for any cancer medications that might have been prescribed.
When both warrants were approved, documents from the Huntsman Cancer Institute stated Berthmann was never a patient.
Berthmann’s claims of seeing doctors in both Alaska and Chicago both ended up being false when investigated by police.
When contacted, the doctor Berthmann referenced in Alaska said Berthmann had never been a patient.
Police contacted the doctor Berthmann referenced in Chicago, who confirmed they had not treated her for cancer or diagnosed her at any point.
Police found a link to the GoFundMe page on Berthmann’s profile next to a bio that stated, “Currently fighting Stage 3 Cancer.”
Berthmann was booked into Salt Lake County Jail Wednesday when police confronted her about the discrepancies in her story stating, “the doctors she stated she was working with were contacted and they had never heard of her.”
She then changed her story and said she was actually being taken care of at Intermountain Healthcare and the documents were in a drawer in her home.
Police conducted a search and did not locate any documents to corroborate her story.
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