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Merrill woman pleads not guilty in cancer-fraud scheme

MERRILL, WI (WTAQ) - A 19-year-old Merrill woman has pleaded not guilty, after she was accused of faking cancer to get donations from her community.

Celina Winchell appeared in Lincoln County Circuit Court Wednesday on 17 theft-related charges and one count of obstructing police. All those charges are misdemeanors.

She's free on a signature bond, and a trial date could be set at a scheduling conference on August 14th.

Authorities said Winchell tried pulling off an elaborate scheme on social media and elsewhere to fake third-stage lung cancer.

Officials said she placed donation jars at 16 businesses in the Merrill area, supposedly to cover chemotherapy treatments. A benefit pancake breakfast was also in the works.

Winchell also faces a similar theft charge in neighboring Marathon County, along with obstruction. A trial date in that case is set for August 15th.

(Story courtesy of Wheeler News Service)