|Calgary music promoter Kristopher Cook, who is being investigated by police for what friends allege is a fraud that saw them raise thousands of dollars under the belief he was suffering from brain cancer. SUPPLIED PHOTO
CALGARY - The maximum penalty for fraud is 14 years in prison, but there will be many who say that’s nowhere near long enough for the kind of cur who’d fake cancer to rip off his friends.
That’s the nauseating crime police have officially accused fugitive hipster Kristopher Nicholas Cook of committing, after officers issued an arrest warrant for the evasive 28-year-old Calgarian.
“What a loser,” said Lindsay Shedden, a former friend of Cook’s, who met him in her role as festival director for Sled Island.
That was 2011 and Cook was already telling everyone around him his tale of doom and gloom, after doctors allegedly discovered he was suffering from the same kind of brain cancer that killed his beloved sister.
No one really knew Cook well enough to know he didn’t actually have any siblings — a fact confirmed by the Sun in an interview with his dad last month — and much of his colourful past was fabricated.
But it’s not illegal to tell lies.
What is illegal is telling lies for financial gain and that’s what police say Cook did as he moaned and cried to friends about his tumour and upcoming treatment, allegedly shaving his head to add to the drama.
The music and bar scene frequented by Cook is tight-knit and highly supportive — and it’s no surprise friends like Shedden and local musician Miesha Louie would band together to help the ailing Cook.
“We all know people who have had cancer, so of course we would want to help,” said Shedden.
“But for someone to take advantage of people who loved him like that? You never want to second guess something like that, and I don’t blame anyone for believing him.”
On July 8, 2011, Louie’s band Miesha and the Spanks headlined a fundraising auction called “Kristopher C’s Cancer Smasher Benefit Bash” at Broken City, a bar where Shedden books music.
Police can only focus on the cash they can prove was defrauded, but paperwork exists showing that a silent auction featuring a guitar, bicycle and other donated items raised roughly $7,500.
At least 100 people paid into that auction, and an unknown number of other supporters stuffed a jar full of cash to help their sick buddy through the rough times ahead.
He allegedly claimed to be an American citizen, and thus ineligible for free health care — that and not being able to hold down a job due to cancer stress meant money was desperately needed.
The grand total given to Cook is estimated to be just under $10,000, and there’s no doubt he appreciated the cash — his gratitude evident in the new Macbook Pro he was seen with the very next day.
Between new toys and old friends coming forward to cast doubt on Cook’s tale of woe — he’d apparently faked illness before — the story started to unravel.
Last month, police opened an investigation into the suspected fraud case, after someone officially complained about the fundraiser — and on Wednesday, a warrant was issued for his arrest.
“We believe at this time he has fled Calgary — we have no idea of his whereabouts,” said Const. Martin West, a fraud investigator with the Calgary Police Service.
West said the police investigation included following up the suspect’s claims of treatment for cancer at local clinics and hospitals — and there, officers found no trace of Cook being a patient.
“All we can say at this time is the money was not used for cancer treatment,” said West.
“We were able to determine he didn’t seek any cancer treatments at cancer facilities in Calgary.”
Some friends suspect Cook, who faces charges of two counts of fraud over $5,000, is still in Calgary, but other rumours place him in B.C. or Toronto.
Described as a skinny white male standing 5-foot-8, police say the brown-eyed, brown-haired Cook has likely spent every penny of the ill-gotten cash.
“It doesn’t appear likely that we’ll be able to recover any of the funds,” said West.