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NY mom who stole son’s cancer funds gets probation

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) – An upstate New York mother who gambled away thousands of dollars raised to help her son fight cancer was sentenced Wednesday to five years’ probation.

Sherry Holcomb, 46, of Cortland also must perform 200 hours of community service after pleading guilty in September to a felony count of scheme to defraud.

“I don’t understand how it came to this,” Holcomb told State Supreme Court Judge John Michalski at her sentencing. “I’m trying to understand.”

Holcomb admitted that she opened a bank account for her 21-year-old son, Ryan O’Donnell, depositing money raised at a benefit and included in get-well cards. In a written confession, she said she then withdrew the money to gamble at casinos across the Northeast.

“A lot of the money I took out of the bank I spent for personal reasons, mostly for gambling,” she said in the confession. “I’ve had a gambling addiction for the past six or seven years.”

As part of her plea, Holcomb agreed to pay $15,000 in restitution. She has repaid about half that amount so far, her attorney, Daniel Dubois, said.

O’Donnell has been treated for leukemia at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo.

At her sentencing, Holcomb, a nurse who supervised a group home serving developmentally disabled adults, apologized to her son, other family members and the community.

“I am extremely sorry for what has happened,” she said.

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