By Philip Jankowski
Killeen Daily Herald
A man suspected of defrauding Killeen well-wishers of thousands of dollars by pretending to have terminal cancer is in Travis County Jail after pleading guilty to a charge of fabricating evidence.
State District Judge Cliff Brown sentenced Brian Jeffrey Bonniwell, 32, to five years in prison in a plea agreement reached with the Travis County District Attorney's Office, according to a spokeswoman from the office.
Bonniwell, known in Killeen as Brian Fisher, pleaded guilty Nov. 21 to fabricating physical evidence as well as to two counts of criminal non-support.
A grand jury in Bell County indicted Bonniwell in August on a charge of theft over $1,500 in connection with an alleged scam in which he accepted car parts and cash donations at an event dubbed "Battle for Brian" at a local auto dealership. If convicted in that case, Bonniwell could face up to two years in prison.
The Travis County charge shows that Bonniwell began faking a cancer diagnosis long before he befriended auto enthusiasts in Killeen, who helped pay for after-market parts for his truck and organized a fundraiser on his behalf.
Court documents show that as far back as July 2010 - eight months before the fundraiser - Bonniwell began telling his probation officer that he had stage-3 invasive ductal carcinoma, a form of breast cancer found in men. Bonniwell used the cancer diagnosis as an excuse for missing several court-ordered appointments at a probation office in Austin, according to court documents.
Bonniwell was on probation from a 2005 conviction of burglary of a habitation. He provided his probation officer with a letter from Texas Oncology-South Austin stating he had been diagnosed with cancer and had "crossed over into terminal status," an arrest affidavit states. That letter turned out to be a fabrication.
After Austin police became aware of Bonniwell's alleged scam in Killeen, they subpoenaed records from Texas Oncology-South Austin. An employee of the cancer treatment center told police he could not find any record of Bonniwell ever being a patient there or at any Texas Oncology facility.
Contact Philip Jankowski at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7553.