Spanish parents arrested and charged with exploiting charity set up for their ill daughter

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Familia Blanco Garau
ALLEGED FRAUDSTERS: Blanco and Garau with their daughter.

A SPANISH couple allegedly exploited their daughter’s medical condition for their own benefit, a court in Catalonia has heard, amassing €918,000 in donations of which the majority was used for their “personal enjoyment.”

Eleven-year-old Nadia Nerea Blanca Garau suffers from trichothiodystrophy (TTD), a rare inherited condition which is characterised by sufferers having extremely brittle hair caused by a sulphur deficiency. Severe cases can involve intellectual disability, stunted physical development and early death.

Her parents, Fernando Blanco and Margarita Garau, are accused of “large scale fraud” by profiting from her illness, and were arrested on Wednesday, December 7, in the town of La Seu d’Urgell, Lleida province.

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The pair began a famous fund-raising campaign for their daughter in 2008 which has attracted the support of several national television stations and seen them make numerous public appearances, but have reportedly spent around €600,000, two-thirds of the proceeds, on themselves.

Despite claims by Blanco that the cash was used to travel the globe in search of cutting-edge medical solutions, including trips to Guatemala, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Panama, Russia, India, Finland, and a world expert who dwells in an Afghanistan cave, he has thus far failed to provide any solid evidence.

Police investigators have discovered that the €9,800 annual rent for the family’s home is being covered by the charitable foundation created by Blanco, while he also purchased a car valued at €24,500 after donations increased following a recent televised advertising campaign.

During a raid on the house itself, officers recovered €1,845 in cash, 32 luxury watches valued at €50,000, high-end electronic equipment, and a stash of marihuana, with more money, watches, mobile phones and a hand gun seized from the car.

52-year-old Blanco was detained after attempting to flee a police checkpoint in the comarca of Cerdanya, with investigators fearing that he would leave the country after he failed to show up for a planned television appearance.

In earlier TV slots, he claimed that he was going to use some of the money to take Nadia to “Houston Children’s Hospital” in order to undergo a procedure which he described as “a genetic manipulation outlawed in Spain” during which “three holes are made in the back of the neck.”

He said that his daughter has already been treated in a similar way by a Mexican neurosurgeon who he was unable to name.

Experts replied that the procedure does not exist, with Lluis Montoliu, a researcher on rare diseases, telling El Pais that “the part about the holes in the neck and the cave in Afghanistan are straight out of a comic book.”

It has also emerged that Blanco was sentenced to four years in prison in 2000 after he defrauded the company he worked for to the tune of €120,000.

The judge overseeing the case has decided that Blanco be imprisoned without bail pending results of the trial, while Garau has been charged and released.

Parental responsibility has been rescinded and Nadia is currently staying with a family member as the case continues.

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