SMITHTON (KDKA) — It’s a little town filled with big-hearted people. Smithton, Westmoreland County has a population just fewer than 400 people.
“It’s a wonderful town. The people do have big hearts,” said former councilman Jack Schmitt.
But Melinda Taylor may have taken advantage of that generosity.
She’s accused of leading people to think that doctors found masses in her small intestine and liver, and that treatments for cancer and lupus – an auto immune disease – were overwhelming her financially.
But a grand jury from Ross County, Ohio, believes that her claims of illness were bogus.
At Jack’s Market, Louise Clegg doesn’t know what to believe.
“Well, we all really cared about her,” said Clegg. “I knew the family and they were all good people.”
Taylor, 35, grew up in Smithton, but has lived in Chillicothe, Ohio, for a dozen years. A tip to police there led to an investigation and to Taylor’s arrest for felony grand theft.
“I think it’s a shame,” says business owner Greg Sobek, “because if someone really does need help, it might hinder them from getting help down the road.”
The charges against Taylor primarily stem from the website, YouCaring.com. Mindy’s Army allegedly bilked donors out of more than $13,000.
At the Smithton Volunteer Fire Hall, a spaghetti dinner in February raised some $7,000. Even Smithton’s mayor helped prepare the food.
Answering the door at his home, David Primm, Taylor’s father, would only say the matter is in lawyer’s hands.
“The people did what they did, and I even think that the mother was trying it return checks and everything,” said Schmitt.
Taylor reportedly has had real medical issues including strokes and a repair for a hole in her heart. No one in her hometown can understand why she would have faked cancer.
“What happens the next time somebody is sick,” said Dana Dongilli, of the Smithton Volunteer Fire Department, “and they want to have a fundraiser, and people are going to say the last time we participated, and basically, we were taken.”