Like a real life Tim McGraw song, Mary Bennett lived like she was dying.
The purported cancer patient did, in fact, go skydiving, and she took a trip in a hot air balloon. She got free Braves tickets and signed letters from players. She journeyed to New Orleans and Biloxi and went fishing in the Gulf of Mexico.
One problem, Forsyth County authorities say: She wasn’t really sick, and she did it all on the dime of well-meaning locals.
“She fed off the kindheartedness of the people in this community,” sheriff’s Deputy Epi Rodriguez said.
Bennett, 29, was arrested earlier this month, about five years after investigators believe she started faking Stage IV ovarian cancer. She was charged with first-degree forgery and misdemeanor taking and released on bond.
Overall, authorities believe she received donations, free trips and gifts valued at about $25,000.
A June 2015 article in the Forsyth County News gave readers advanced notice of a spaghetti dinner benefiting an “ailing woman,” describing Bennett as a licensed practical nurse and a 2004 graduate of North Forsyth High School.
“It’s amazing how many people in the area come” to such events, organizer Kirk McConnell said at the time. “We give the money directly to the individual.”
The dinner reportedly raised about $4,000.
Rodriguez said one donated trip sent Bennett to Houston, where she claimed she was getting medical treatments. She allegedly faked treatments back home, too.
“She was going to the hospital and was not actually having procedures,” Rodriguez said. “She would have people take her, but she never wanted anyone going in with her.”
Rodriguez said an anonymous tip led to the investigation into Bennett’s claims, and that investigators believe additional victims may still be out there. Anyone who believes they may have been victimized should call 770-781-3038.