FBI will not pursue Internet hoax case
The Star (1st June 2001)

WICHITA (Kansas): The FBI said Thursday it will not further investigate an Internet hoax in which a 40-year-old woman invented a young woman, began an online diary of her battle with leukaemia and then killed her off.

Hundreds of people sent cards and gifts as they followed the fictitious Kaycee Nicole's nearly two-year-long fight with cancer through an online diary dubbed Living Colours.

The saga of the optimistic high school basketball star ended May 15 when Debbie Swenson of Peabody, Kansas, announced Kaycee's death on the website: "Thank you for the love, the joy, the laughter and the tears. We shall love you always and forever."

FBI spokesman Jeff Lanza said the bureau would not probe the case further because it doesn't meet the agency's threshold for financial crimes.

For fraud cases, the loss has to be in the thousands of dollars. In this case only a few hundred dollars, at most, were sent to the fictitious woman by people who believed the story, he said.

"Our understanding of the facts is there was no active solicitation," Lanza said. "So at least at a federal level it would be hard to prove a crime occurred."

The hoax started unravelling when several readers noticed irregularities in Kaycee's story and started making calls. Computer experts traced the postings to Swenson's Internet account.

Swenson, a homemaker with two teenaged children, confessed a few days later that she had invented Kaycee's life and death.

The photos purported to be of Kaycee were actually those of an Oklahoma teenager who had no idea they were being used until Swenson called her family last week to apologise.

Swenson, who has an unlisted telephone number, could not be immediately reached for comment Thursday on the FBI's decision.

But in Thursday's editions of The New York Times, Swenson said she had not intended to hurt anyone when she created the Kaycee character. She said she was surprised to learn how many people had been reading about Kaycee.

"The whole idea of an online journal is to write what you want to write," she said. "I wanted it to be something positive."

The online postings began nearly two years ago on a site called CollegeClub.com. - AP