MARION, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio sheriff's deputy who committed suicide last week pretended for years that he had cancer while scamming his family and colleagues out of thousands of dollars in charitable donations to pay for phony medical bills, authorities said Wednesday.
Marion County Deputy Sheriff Joe Russell, 39, shot himself in his home Sept. 30. An autopsy showed that he was healthy and did not have cancer.
"This was a fraud. This was a con," Sheriff Tim Bailey said at a news conference outlining details of the investigation.
Russell had fabricated notes from doctors to help pass off a story about how he was fighting cancer in his lungs, brain and testicles, Bailey said. Investigators also believe Russell shaved his eyebrows and head and used tanning beds to make himself appear red from cancer treatments.
Co-workers had donated more than 75 days in unused sick leave and vacation time so that Russell could get treatment. He also received about $20,000 from a Fraternal Order of Police fundraiser in 2007.
Bailey said he had been suspicious about his constantly sick deputy but medical privacy laws prevented him from delving into the matter.
Russell lived with his wife and two daughters in Delaware, about 20 miles north of Columbus. His wife told investigators she didn't know about the con until last week, Bailey said.