No jail time for Northwood woman convicted in cancer scam

Published 2:42 pm Tuesday, January 5, 2021

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By Lisa Grouette, Mason City Globe Gazette

A Northwood woman, who deputies say impersonated doctors and defrauded area charities by pretending to have cancer, received a suspended sentence on Monday in a Worth County courtroom.

Jennifer Mikesell

Jennifer Hope Mikesell, 44, pleaded guilty in November to a felony charge of ongoing criminal conduct. Six aggravated misdemeanor charges of forgery and charge of felony second-degree theft were dismissed as part of a plea agreement.

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Mikesell was arrested in December 2019 after being accused of pretending to have cancer and reaching out to area charities and individuals for donations of money, goods and services, even going so far as to create fake email addresses and forge doctors’ notes from three providers at Mayo Clinic (one of which is not actually employed there), where she claimed to be receiving care, according to court documents.

Evidence collected by law enforcement uncovered emails which were sent to Mikesell’s husband and employer from an email account which was opened by Mikesell and used to represent herself as a Mayo employee.
Mikesell obtained contributions from Meal Train, GoFundMe, and received a renovated bedroom from My Happy Haven, a Mason City-based organization which charitably provides comfortable recuperation spaces in the homes of those diagnosed with life-altering illnesses.

Search warrants executed on Mayo Clinic’s records determined that providers there had never diagnosed Mikesell with cancer, and that no treatments or surgeries took place.

Mikesell was given a suspended sentence of up to 25 years in prison, along with five years of probation. She is also ordered to pay restitution to those she defrauded as well as continue to seek treatment by a mental health professional as recommended.

Court records also show Mikesell has past convictions for similar charges.

In 2015, Mikesell, whose last name was then Nilges, was charged in Mitchell County with ongoing criminal conduct and second-degree theft for her role in stealing $1,400 from a Girl Scout troop bank account. She later pleaded guilty to a reduced charge, spending 10 days in jail and paying $625 in fines.

Another court case from 2003 in Florida links Mikesell to identity theft and forgery charges, to which she pleaded no contest, and received three years of probation and was ordered to pay over $2,000 in restitution and fines.