By Riley Yares and Pamela Lehman, The Morning Call
When Jessica Angione started having contractions in July, the first person she called was Baby Myah's mother.
For months, Angione had hoped that her son's umbilical cord might be the key to saving a beautiful Pen Argyl girl who she believed suffered from leukemia and aplastic anemia and needed a bone marrow transplant.
"It was such an inspiring story," said Angione, who also organized fundraisers for Baby Myah. "My little boy was going to save her life."
But in reality Baby Myah was never really sick, authorities said, and on Wednesday they charged her mom, Arielle Lucinda Poor, with running a charity scheme that allegedly raked in more than $10,000 from kind-hearted people looking to help.
Not only did Poor, 22, have fundraisers for her daughter's care, but she also sought donors for breast milk and bone marrow, and even claimed she'd miscarried a pregnancy she was hoping would provide bone marrow for Myah, according to court records.
Poor, who also uses the last names of Odom and Brooks, turned herself in Wednesday morning at the Northampton County Courthouse in Easton and then was arraigned by District Judge Adrianne Masut in Wind Gap, who sent her to county prison.
Baby Myah had a Facebook page to raise money for her medical bills, a YouTube video with a pastor calling for help on her behalf, and charity events at homes and restaurants.
Though Poor had posted online that Myah had only a year to live, she admitted in a Sept. 19 interview with a county detective that the diagnosis was a lie, according to court records.
While Poor had claimed to supporters that her daughter was being treated at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, a review of hospital documents showed Myah had never received treatment there, records state.
Angione, who is 29, said she was among those taken in.
When she heard Poor's story, she said, she was excited because she thought the pregnancy meant she could aid the girl. But as Angione got closer to her delivery, she said Poor started to come up with reasons why the umbilical cord blood donation, which can be used for transplants to combat leukemia, wouldn't work.
"Up until the day I was in labor, I was asking her if she was going to come with the so-called box" that would store the donated cord blood, Angione said in a phone interview.
After her son was born, Angione said she felt guilty, as though she'd "let that little girl down."
Anger was her first reaction when she learned of the allegations against Poor, Angione said. But now, she said she feels more than anything sad for a woman who had a beautiful daughter whom she apparently exploited.
"I hope she gets some help," Angione said.
Poor, formerly of Pen Argyl and now of Orefield, is charged with theft by deception, criminal use of a communication facility and receiving stolen property.
Before her arraignment, Poor told a reporter with The Morning Call to "get it right" about her case, but declined to comment further.
When the judge set Poor's bail at $50,000, she began to sob softly and shake her head.
According to court records:
Poor's tale of Myah began in August 2010 when she was at a picnic and met members of the Eco Mom Alliance of the Lehigh Valley, a group that practices sustainable and holistic living.
In October, Poor posted online with the group that until she could "raise money to buy home health equipment and visiting nurses," Myah would remain at the hospital.
Poor also sought breast milk donations and posted her phone number. A woman in Hellertown gave Poor 60 ounces of breast milk and a breast pump.
Many groups and individuals reported to county investigators that they had given money to Poor or held events for her, including the Starters Riverport sports bar in Bethlehem, the Hecktown Fire Company and the Johnsonville Cookie Club of Bangor.
Among them: A member of the Eco Mom Alliance organized an event Dec. 1 in Easton where more than 100 people were entered into the National Bone Marrow Registry. The cost to enter each donor was more than $100.
Court records show that Poor has told tales before.
Poor previously lied to police in Northampton County about being gang-raped, and she admitted in Virginia to abducting three children and bringing them to Pen Argyl, even while reporting their disappearance to police and offering to help locate them.
Poor pleaded guilty in 2009 in the two cases: to false reports of rape in Plainfield Township and to abduction and contributing to the delinquency of minors in Lynchburg, Va.
Copyright © 2013, The Morning Call