The woman with the heart of a goat

  • Jan. 28, 2011 2:00 p.m.

Langford woman jailed for defrauding relatives through wild stories of cancer, transplants and illness

“You’ll never know how much pain you caused,” Keith Brownlee said, as he read his victim impact statement to the court at a sentencing hearing for Tina Michele Sammons, who defrauded him out of more than $40,000.

“I’ve never had anyone betray me like this. I’ve met the cruelest person in my lifetime.”

Brownlee is one of five victims Sammons defrauded out of more than $350,000 to fuel a gambling addiction, while claiming she needed the cash for bogus medical treatments.

After pleading guilty to four counts of fraud over $5,000, 37-year-old Sammons was sentenced to three years in prison less the two months served since her arrest Nov. 17, 2010.

Judge Adrian Brooks also ordered her to pay restitution to each of her victims.

The court heard that her brother-in-law Marc Robichaud had grown suspicious last year and paid $8,700 for a private investigator to follow Sammons. On one of her supposed trips for medical treatment on Nov. 7, the investigator trailed her to the casino in View Royal and found her playing slots.

She was arrested 10 days later, saying “thank God it’s over,” to police as they led her away, the court heard.

Sammons, who grew up in West Virginia but now lives in Langford, told family members she was suffering from brain cancer, and as an American, her medical bills weren’t covered by the provincial health care system.

Over 18 months and to separate relatives, she wove tales of having a baseball-sized tumour removed from her brain and going through 15 rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Altogether she claimed three liver transplants, three kidney transplants and four heart transplants. She even told people she had the heart of a goat.

The court heard she took one trip to Vancouver for a surgery, but instead stayed at River Rock Casino. Sammons would often shave her hair, cut her skin, and apply bandages and make-up to convince her victims she was sick.

A psychological evaluation showed she had no medical issues other than being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, a pathological gambling addiction, having chronic suicidal tendencies and abusing marijuana.

Her husband Guy Robichaud pleaded with the court for Sammons to have a conditional sentence, serving it at home while taking care of her five-year-old daughter.

“I told her she would never see me or our daughter again,” he told the court. “I support her, not what she did. I want to give her that second chance not only for myself but for our daughter.”

With the mention of her daughter, Sammons’ head collapsed into her hands and she began weeping during the sentencing hearing on Thursday.

Guy told the court his 71-year-old mother left his 83-year-old father at home five days a week to care for Sammons’ daughter, their only grandchild, while Sammons feigned sickness due to claims of undergoing chemotherapy. She stayed in bed or traveled to upscale hotels for phony medical treatments, the court heard.

The senior Robichauds, Hugette and Jean, gave Sammons more than $300,000, taking out a $150,000 line of credit to help her. Sammons would call them at their Saanich home in the middle of the night asking them for cash for various treatments she said she needed right away.

“She said she needed $65,000 for a liver transplant, and without the cash, she would go to the bottom of the list,” Crown counsel Catherine Murray told the court.

Sammons would also fake violent seizures in front of the senior Robichauds, often when they were alone together.

Sammons told her victims she was expecting a multi-million dollar pay-out from a malpractice lawsuit she had filed in the United States, but the FBI was holding the money.

She was ordered to repay $300,000 to Hugette and Jean Robichaud, $10,700 to sister-in-law Isabelle Robichaud, $10,700 to brother-in-law Marc Robichaud, and $40,000 to family friend Keith Brownlee.

reporter@goldstreamgazette.com