This photograph of Jennifer Dempsey is the one she posted to Facebook, police said. (Source: Phoenix Police Department)
Booking photo (Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)
PHOENIX (CBS5) -
A woman who portrayed herself online as a 16-year-old girl who was pregnant was arrested Thursday for engaging in sex acts with teenage boys, Phoenix police said.
Jennifer Dempsey, 35, is accused of contacting 14-year-old to 16-year-old boys she did not know through Facebook and then meeting them for sex acts, Phoenix police spokesman Sgt. Trent Crump said.
Dempsey told both victims she was pregnant and attended a meeting with one of the victim's parents, Crump said.
Crump also said for the past five years, Dempsey convinced her family she had cancer. She shaved her head, bought wigs and had a fake chemotherapy port taped to her chest to make it appear real, Crump said.
Police detectives discovered Dempsey did not have cancer, but used the claim to help avoid arrest.
"She used her cancer ploy to our detectives to try and stay out of trouble," said Crump. "She said this is the reason why she didn't engage in the sexual conduct because she was constantly ill from chemotherapy, all of which we learned in the following days, was not true."
CBS5 News spoke to several of Dempsey's neighbors who said that they would see her with a tube on her chest and assumed she was fighting cancer.
"It was my belief that she was very, very ill," said Carolyn Chavez, the office manager at Dempsey's condominium complex. "She wore a tube all the time. We've had other residents with cancer and I thought she fit the profile."
"It really is shocking," said neighbor Elizabeth Slipek.
"I can't believe somebody would go to great lengths to go to something like that. It's ridiculous, especially as an adult. We look up to adults. We're teenagers ourselves and for somebody to do something like that, it's not the best thing to hear," she continued.
During the investigation, police said they recovered incriminating text messages that led to her arrest. Dempsey admitted she had sex with the older victim, but denied sexual activity with the younger boy, although she did make statements that corroborate the charges, Crump added.
Police served a search warrant on her home, which produced several pieces of evidence.
Crump said the police investigation started after the parents of one of the teenagers came forward.
According to police, the parents had met Dempsey and didn't believe she was 16-years-old. The parents also found nude photos being exchanged with their son, police said.
Dempsey was booked into jail on several counts of sexual conduct with a minor.
Police said there is concern the conduct may have been going on for some time.
People with information related to the case are asked to contact the Phoenix Police Department's Family Investigation Bureau at 602-534-2121 or Silent Witness.
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