Former Steamboat Springs woman accused of faking cancer, stealing $7,000
Steamboat Springs — A former Steamboat Springs woman who police say faked having cancer turned herself in Friday morning at the Routt County Jail.
A judge signed off on the arrest warrant Wednesday.
Elizabeth Emilie Bateman, 34, also is accused of hosting a fundraiser for a fake cancer charity and spending the $7,000 in proceeds on herself, for which she faces a felony theft charge.
Bateman, who currently lives in New Mexico, was booked at the jail, posted a $10,000 bond and then was released.
In late March, Steamboat Springs Police Department Detective Dave Kleiber began investigating the allegations after being contacted by resident Michelle Beck and a Crime Stoppers tipster. The story that unraveled was one of lies, fraud and deceit.
Kleiber identified 28 victims who had given money to the sham charity for which Bateman held a fundraiser. The Friends Through the Fight charity supposedly was created to raise money to make wishes come true for adults who have cancer.
“The victims that I spoke with, they weren’t angry over the loss of the money,” Kleiber said Wednesday. “They were angry over the violation of trust — just being scammed.”
Kleiber spoke with Beck — who said she got to know Bateman through Rex’s American Grill & Bar, where the women worked at separate times — and said Bateman told her early in their friendship that she had cancer.
According to Bateman’s blog post from 2011, she had been diagnosed with a terminal form of leukemia four years ago and she did not have long to live. She moved to Steamboat from Texas in 2009.
“Living in a small mountain town in Colorado was always on my bucket list … so why not?” she wrote.
Beck believed the story.
“If you looked at her, you were like, ‘Yeah, this girl has cancer,’” she said Wednesday.
Without any of Bateman’s family nearby, Beck said she offered to help Bateman and allowed her to move into her house, where she lived for about seven months.
Beck said she did not work last winter so she could help take care of Bateman, who used a wheelchair and oxygen. Beck said she would wake Bateman in the middle of the night to give her a shot of what Beck thought was liquid morphine that needed to be administered every six hours.
Eventually, Beck learned that the liquid with which she had been injecting Bateman was a saline solution, Kleiber wrote in the arrest warrant.
Beck said it is sickening to recall the situation.
“I believe some days she laid on my couch knowing exactly what she was doing and loving every minute of it,” Beck said.
Beck said she gave Bateman rides to Edwards, Texas and other places to get chemotherapy and other cancer treatments.
It is not thought she was seen by doctors, according to the arrest warrant.
“We shaved her head because she was like, ‘My hair is starting to fall out again,” Beck said.
Beck said she also was tasked with helping Bateman with the phony charity she had started. Beck said Bateman suggested they hold a benefit to raise money for the charity in about March 2012.
They held the benefit at Rex’s, where Bateman worked part time. Rex’s owner, Rex Brice, said Thursday that Bateman was a good worker, had a good attitude and always was willing to help with community-service projects. Brice said he donated to the Friends Through the Fight charity fundraising event personally and as a business.
“I was a little shocked to hear she was not sick, to say the least,” Brice said.
A professional photographer volunteered to document the fundraiser, and Beck’s husband’s construction company, Beck Construction, donated $2,000.
Kleiber’s investigation looked into how the money was spent.
“There are no transactions documented on the bank account balance sheet that would indicate any money from the account was utilized to support Friends Through the Fight ‘make a wish’ activities,” the warrant states.
The warrant mentions how Bateman’s Facebook page and blog show her on beach vacations, a skydiving trip and a helicopter ride.
It is thought Bateman also held two fundraisers in Grapevine, Texas, the warrant states.
Friends began becoming suspicious of Bateman’s cancer claims in March after Beck made her go to the emergency room at Yampa Valley Medical Center because Bateman claimed she was vomiting blood.
“I made her go to the ER, and the whole time she was just freaking out,” Beck said. “I didn’t get it, and now I do.”
Beck said doctors told her Bateman was not physically sick. Friends confronted Bateman, and Bateman posted on Facebook four days after the hospital visit that she never had cancer, according to the warrant.
Bateman then moved to New Mexico, where she currently is living.
Beck said she told police about the incident because she was worried Bateman again would take advantage of people.
“I don’t want anyone ever, ever to go through this,” she said. “It’s horrible.”
Bateman’s father, Al Bateman, said Wednesday that he was leaving with his daughter Thursday for Steamboat so she could post bond at Routt County Jail on Friday.
She “is very distressed about everything she has done in the past,” Al Bateman said. “She is seeking counseling.”
Bateman is due in court at 8:30 a.m. June 18. The Routt County District Attorney’s Office has not filed formal charges.
To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com
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