SAN DIEGO - The family of a man who died of cancer says he would still be alive today had it not been for a cruel hoax from a stranger who promised $250,000 in life-saving cancer treatments.
Thomas Doty died Saturday after a three-year battle with a rare form of bone cancer called osteosarcoma.
"I honestly believe he'd still be here if time had not been wasted," said Tiffany Doty, Thomas' mother.
This Christmas Day has been particularly emotional for Doty. She said it is the first without her son.
"I placed an ornament on the tree for him," said Doty, choking back tears. "I can't sleep. I was his caretaker around the clock. Nights are the hardest because that was our special, quiet time together. I just want people to know what a wonderful person he was."
Doty says her son was getting better at a holistic facility in Valley Center, but the treatments were expensive.
In September, family friend Jonathan Hillstrand from "The Deadliest Catch" TV show asked his reality fans to help the Doty family.
A fan soon responded. The Dotys thought their prayers were answered when a woman claiming to be a nurse from Indiana contacted them, promising $250,000 for life-saving care.
Doty said, "She called saying, 'Did you tell Thomas the money is on the way? Is he happy?'"
Doty said the only thing that came was more lies and empty promises. She said the woman, under several aliases, made cruel posts on Facebook and even began harassing the family.
One post read, "I sent the donation a few months ago." Another contained bizarre rants accusing the family of being disingenuous with their intentions.
The Doty family says the lies came in the form of emails, forged bank statements, certified cashier's checks produced and altered by the woman herself and countless phone calls and texts saying the "check was in the mail."
The family had stopped fundraising efforts because they initially thought the money would come through. It never did, and Thomas ran out of time.
"She went to great lengths to do this and Thomas had so many disappointments in his life," said Doty. "Thomas would still be here if we had not wasted that time."
Doty plans to call the FBI and police on Wednesday. She has also hired an attorney to track the woman down and plans to take her to court for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Doty said the lies and heartache continues in the wake of her son's death. She says the woman is still harassing her and Hillstrand.
"Jonathan Hillstrand told me at my son's funeral that this woman is stalking him and won't leave him alone," said Doty. "He says he's afraid for his life."
Doty said she just wants it to end. On this Christmas Day, the only thing she wants is peace and time to grieve for her son.
"His favorite quote was 'reach for the stars, see you in heaven,'" she said.
For more information on Thomas' story, visit HealThomas.com.