(CNN) — A California man who donated thousands of dollars to play in the World Series of Poker lied about his terminal cancer, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
Robert Mercer, who claims to have stage 4 colon cancer, convinced people to donate to his GoFundMe campaign to pay for his participation in a Las Vegas pageant.
Now, the 37-year-old Vallejo resident tells the Las Vegas Review-Journal that’s a lie.
“I lied about having colon cancer. I didn’t have colon cancer,” Mercer told David Schoen of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “I used it to hide my condition. What I did was wrong. I shouldn’t have told people I had colon cancer.”
According to the newspaper, Mercer started the GoFundMe in June.
But after a few months, members of the poker community became suspicious of Mercer’s position, according to Doug Parscall Jr., who donated to Mercer.
“It was a mix of emotions because, on the one hand, I wanted him to lie,” Parskal Jr. told CNN. “Because I don’t want anyone to die from it.”
The goal of the GoFundMe is to fulfill Mercer’s dream of playing in the WSOP’s US$10,000 buy-in No Limit Hold’em World Championship. Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Mercer received donations through personal transactions, including a package paid for at the Bellagio Hotel during the tournament. In total, he received between $30,000 and $50,000 in donations, the newspaper said.
According to the Review-Journal, she has no intention of returning the money to anyone because she “believes she has undiagnosed breast cancer and that the donations were made because she was ill.”
CNN has reached out to Mercer for comment.
A “horrible” act
Cody Daniels also competes in the World Series of Poker, but says he is legitimately battling a chronic illness. She is a 2015 Make-A-Wish recipient who used her wish to meet former President Barack Obama. Learning of Mercer’s misdiagnosis was “terrifying,” she told CNN.
“When questions came up about his illness, I didn’t know who to turn to,” Daniels told CNN. “I told myself, ‘Lie or die.'”
“I’ve spent half my life in the hospital and it’s crazy to do what he did,” Daniels said. “It’s a shame and one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen.”
Parscal Jr., for his part, says he lost a friend to colon cancer. That’s why, he says, he’s a big promoter of Mercer’s fundraising. Although he calls the situation “twisted,” he says it’s more important than money.
“We spent a lot of time and emotion,” Parskal Jr. said.
Many people in the poker community texted Mercer to offer their support, and Mercer cried on the phone, Parscal Jr. says.
GoFundMe spokesman Jeff Platt says the online fundraiser has been suspended since Mercer’s confession.
“GoFundMe has zero tolerance for abuse of our platform and takes swift action against those who exploit the generosity of our community,” Platt said in a statement to CNN. “All donors have been refunded in full, and Rob Mercer has been banned from using the fundraising site in the future.”
According to Platt, the GoFundMe is cooperating with police investigations.