Monique Alexis Coria took in tens of thousands of dollars from empathetic donors who figured their money was going toward a good cause: medical treatments for a 1-year-old child allegedly diagnosed with oligodendroglioma, a rare brain tumor with a reported 70% five-year survival rate.
Donors later discovered that it was the mother’s mindset that was sick, not her daughter’s brain.
The cancerous lie
KOLD reported that Phoenix Children’s hospital staff alerted police on Oct. 5 to possible fraud committed by Coria and her husband.
Court paperwork indicated that the couple had repeatedly brought their 1-year-old daughter in for “unnecessary medical procedures,” claiming she had brain cancer. They took pictures of their daughter in the emergency room to lend credibility to the claims they made online.
The staff who notified the police said Coria and her husband had started a GoFundMe, advancing the lie about their child’s invented malady and claiming they “needed money to pay for the medical bills.”
Coria also harvested sympathy on TikTok, posting about the child and her fake condition.
Sullivan showed KNXV screenshots of images from Coria, which read, “Natalia’s tumor grew. We found out today. We need so much support right now.”
“She preyed on a group of individuals … who don’t want you to feel alone, don’t want you to go through this alone,” said Sullivan.
One donor, Katherine Penna, works for a pharmacy. Penna said she researched the medications Coria claimed her child needed, checking where it was in stock, “what the cost would be, sending her coupons.”
Another alleged fraud victim, Ashley Jimenez, said she was scammed out of hundreds of dollars.
Jimenez, whose own father had been battling cancer, told KCOP that she had spent months planning a fundraiser for Coria and her child. Jimenez held a “Tacos for Cancer” event for baby Natalia at the San Gabriel Valley Airport in El Monte, California, on June 4. The event had multiple sponsors and was subtitled, “Nobody fights alone.”
“So many people came together that day with open hearts and open minds, and we were manipulated,” said Jimenez.
According to court documents, the Phoenix Children’s hospital staff explained to police that the child “has never been diagnosed with brain cancer and does not have brain cancer.”
The initial report by hospital staff noted that the parents had made over $13,000 on the GoFundMe before it was terminated.
Coria had also accepted an untold sum in donations from various other money-sharing apps, such as Zelle, Cashapp, and LinkTree.
Coria has been banned from GoFundMe, and some of her donors have been refunded.
Treating the real malignancies
After the tip from hospital staff, Department of Child Safety officials accompanied police during a Oct. 13 visit to Coria’s apartment.
Coria quickly changed her tune about her baby’s supposed brain cancer, saying instead that Natalia had seizures, for which she needed and took medication.
Coria told police that a friend started the GoFundMe on her behalf. Facing scrutiny, Coria changed her story again, claiming that her husband had started the campaign because they needed rent and gas money.
The husband clarified that his wife had made the account under his name and claimed he “believed Coria” that their daughter had brain cancer, despite not having seen any paperwork attesting to that diagnosis.
According to KOLD, Coria later admitted that her husband was unaware that their daughter wasn’t sick.
Court documents revealed that Coria admitted that she was “fully aware” that the baby didn’t have cancer and “it was a fraudulent way to ask for money.” She had claimed otherwise on Tiktok because she was “in a bad place.”
That “bad place” was well funded.
According to police, Coria noted that she and her husband bilked donors for $11,000, $4,000 of which they spent on rent and gas.
Investigators revealed that Coria spent some of the donation money on luxury items such as a Gucci wallet and a $600 blow-dryer because “they had their other expenses covered with the donation money.” Extra to designer fashion, court documents indicated that the couple blew the money on “rent, clothes, food, a vehicle, toys, TV, and medication.”
Chris Sullivan, one of Coria’s alleged fraud victims, suggested the couple’s cash grab was “probably more in the range of 30,000 to 40,000 dollars over the course of a few months.”
On Oct. 17, the couple was arrested. Coria was charged with fraudulent schemes and artifices, a class 2 felony.
The county attorney sent the case back to the police in April, requesting more evidence. While the Tolleson Police Department has yet to resubmit the case, AZFamily indicated that may soon change and that Coria is also under investigation for a separate fraud scheme.
One of Coria’s alleged victims, Angel Quihuis, told AZFamily that he had moved the couple into his home because they had been living in a motel. While Quihuis’ guests, the couple reportedly scammed him three times.
The first time, Coria said she was a Live Nation employee and sold Quihuis tickets to meet the musician Pitbull in 2021. Quihuis took his entire family to the venue, only to find that the tickets were not valid. “It was one of the biggest embarrassments ever, dude.”
Coria reportedly also used the ticket scam on another friend, Karissa Sanchez, taking her $300 for tickets that never came.
Sanchez said, “From me alone, [Coria took] probably $450-$500 … With other people — all my coworkers, family friends? Probably a good $6,000 dollars.”
The second time, Coria took Quihuis’ deposit for his dream dog, an English bulldog. Quihuis never got the dog.
The scammer had also allegedly taken Autumn Franco for $1,500, after guaranteeing him two French bulldog puppies.
The third time, Coria allegedly ripped Quihuis off for a Disneyland trip that never happened.
It was not until $3,000 went missing that Quihuis, who had mistaken the couple for friends, kicked them out.
Quihuis told AZFamily that upon learning of Coria’s arrest, it “did put a grin on my face knowing justice was finally served.”