A Jamaica Plain woman who claimed to be a Boston Marathon bombing victim is expected in court next week after she was indicted for receiving almost $40,000 in benefits that police and prosecutors say were fraudulently obtained, Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley and Boston Police Commissioner William B. Evans said.
The Suffolk County Grand Jury on March 10 returned indictments charging JOANNA LEIGH (D.O.B. 2/1/74) with five counts of larceny over $250 by false pretense and one count of making a false claim to a government agency. She will be arraigned on those charges Monday in Suffolk Superior Court.
“I saw first-hand the injuries true victims suffered on that day,” said Commissioner Evans. “Ms. Leigh saw an opportunity to take advantage of kind-hearted individuals who wanted to help those victims. I am grateful to the Boston Police Special Investigations Unit and the DA's Special Prosecutions Unit for their exceptional work in this complex investigation.”
“At a time when most people were asking how they could help, others were wondering how they could benefit,” DA Conley said. “Every dollar at issue in this case was taken from someone who truly deserved it.”
The investigation by Boston Police detectives and Suffolk fraud prosecutors revealed that Leigh was indeed at the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013, but was not injured by the bombing. She did not claim any injury or seek any medical treatment until about two weeks later. When she did begin to make those claims, she billed herself as a “hero” who ran toward the second blast.
Leigh received an $8,000 payment from the One Fund, which was intended to provide financial benefits to those injured in the bombings. Investigators say she sought a payment of more than $2 million but refused to release her medical records for authentication of her claims. Further, children and faculty at a Mattapan middle school raised more than $1,700 for Leigh that was presented to her personally in a ceremony at the school. Leigh is also the beneficiary of more than $9,000 in contributions to an online fundraiser. That web site refers to Leigh in the third person but evidence suggests it was created, maintained, and updated using her email address. Evidence also suggests that Leigh received free dermatology services through a practice that offered treatment at no cost to bombing victims, but where other victims had generally been treated for scarring to their lower bodies, she sought and received free treatment for facial redness – a condition for which she’d been treated prior to the bombings. Finally, Leigh also received more than $18,000 in benefits from the state’s Victims of Violent Crime Compensation fund.
The indictments are based on a painstaking examination of financial and medical records, as well as a review of video surveillance, witness testimony, medical opinions, Leigh’s statements to investigators in the days following the bombing, and the different and contradictory stories she began to tell to local and national news media weeks later. The investigation was led by Detective Steve Blair of the Boston Police Special Investigations Unit and Assistant District Attorney Greer Spatz of the DA’s Special Prosecutions Unit.