Family apologizes for phony cancer fundraiser

A 24 year-old local man who claimed he was dying of cancer last summer faked it, according to an account reported by Boston Globe columnist Adrian Walker last week. In his Friday column, headlined "Lying for love," Walker told readers that he too was duped when he wrote a sympathetic piece about Jake Severino last summer, just before a fundraiser was held to benefit him at Florian Hall. The Reporter also published a brief news item before the Sept. 11 "time" in our Sept. 4 edition.

Severino's mother-in-law, Lisa Donovan, this week apologized to anyone who was taken in by the false claims. Donovan and her daughter helped to organize the event - which Walker said raised an estimated $48,000.

Donovan told the Reporter this week that "most of the money is intact and we plan on doing restitution as best as we can." She added, however, that the family is waiting for counsel from the district attorney's office about how such refunds will be given. Donovan said a detective has been in touch with the family to investigate the matter.

"As soon as that's resolved with the DA, we'll make an announcement," said a somber Donovan. "I would just apologize to your readers. We were duped and we want to restore people's faith."

According to Walker, Severino - a student and employee at UMass-Boston - told the Globe columnist that he made up the story because "I wanted to be loved."

This marks the second known scam in which a local person faked a cancer condition to collect donations. In 2000, then 27-year-old Kristen Clougherty pled guilty to bilking friends and neighbors - mainly from South Boston and Dorchester - of more than $40,000 after she lied and said she had ovarian cancer.