“Never trust a junky” is a famous line voiced by Chloe Webb in her portrayal of Nancy Spungen in the 1986 cult film “Sid and Nancy.” And for good reason. Heroin addicts are infamous for conning and scamming people. Heroin creates such a powerful physical and psychological addiction that not a day can go by without shooting up or snorting. While many are “functioning addicts,” who hold down jobs, heroin also tends to ensnare the type of people who are too dysfunctional to hold down a job even when they are sober. Thus, thinking up scams and cons becomes the addicts job.
Brittany Ozarowski is just such a heroin addict, who decided to exploit the fact that heroin gives addicts an emaciated and sickly appearance, which can easily be mistaken for serious illness. The 21 year old from Long Island told people she had various forms of cancer, and that she could not afford life-saving treatment. Numerous donations from businesses, fund raisers and a website showing her confined to a wheelchair pulled in tens of thousands of dollars, all of which was spent to feed her addiction.
Eventually, the scam unraveled, when things were just not adding up. Ms. Ozarowski’s told a cancer survivor that chemotherapy did not her hair did not fall out, because she was taking “special vitamins.” People wondered why she failed to appear for a free appointment with a neurologist, even though she had been trying to raise money to pay for a neurologist. And why would she hang up on a guy offering to make a $10,000 payment directly to a hospital? When the scam was revealed, people who had donated to “save Brittany’s life,” were understandably outraged, as were numerous cancer survivors who had offered her moral support. What makes this type of scam so reprehensible is that the scammer is not only conning people, but also stealing from legitimate charities, to which the generous victims otherwise would have donated.
Ms. Ozarowski currently faces charges of grand larceny in a 24 count indictment in Suffolk County, NY. She also faces forgery charges for forging doctor’s excuses in order to skip court dates for prior drug charges. I am not sure what her sentence will be, however, the fact that she used such a devious method to con so many people will certainly be considered an aggravating factor.
Matt McClenahen is a criminal defense lawyer in State College, Pennsylvania, who limits his practice to criminal law. http://www.mattmlaw.com/About-Attorney-McClenahen/