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TALE OF DAUGHTER'S DEATH HAS ONE LITTLE PROBLEM

The child was waiting in the car as her mom tried to get a donation for funeral expenses.

The patient, hysterical and sobbing, told her doctor the tragic tale.

Her daughter had died of lung cancer. Unemployed and broke, she needed money to bury her child.

It sounded like a terrible tragedy, a parent's nightmare.

Except the girl wasn't dead.

Police arrested Jean Fontalvo on Tuesday, accusing her of trying to scam the Injury Care Institute out of $500 by faking her daughter's death.

It's the second time in a year she's been accused of faking a family member's death.

Here's how it worked, according to the doctor's office and police:

Fontalvo was a patient at the Injury Care Institute, an office run by Luis F. Ycaza for people healing from car accidents.

She came into the office a couple of weeks ago, upset and causing a scene, said office manager Susan Krivac.

Fontalvo told her doctor that her daughter, Shakira, had died, and said she was desperate for money for the funeral. Krivac immediately suspected something was amiss.

She did a background check on Fontalvo and saw a laundry list of arrests - 21 arrests in Florida, state records show.

Krivac asked Fontalvo for proof: Shakira's death certificate.

Fontalvo brought in the certificate a few days ago, and Krivac handed it over to police.

"It was just ridiculous," Krivac said of the document's flaws.

Right away, Krivac noticed a basic math problem. Fontalvo said her daughter was 13, but the death certificate said the girl was born in January 2007 and was only 7 months old.

Fontalvo also sent along a photograph and said it was her daughter. It looked like a school portrait of a teen girl with long, dark hair - definitely not a baby, Krivac said.

Fontalvo also gave Krivac a statement on the letterhead of Gonzalez Funeral Home that read: "We are accepting donations and all donations will be appreciated."

The funeral home did not return a call for comment.

The letter also said donations should be made out to Mary A. Basso. Police say Basso is Fontalvo's mom. Basso also declined to comment.

Krivac asked Fontalvo to come to the office to pick up a $500 donation check, but Krivac also called police, who were waiting to arrest Fontalvo at the office at 4107 Himes Ave.

She told police she was raising money for cancer research, said Sgt. Paul Mumford.

Police also called up reporters, who shouted questions to Fontalvo as she was led into the police station. Dressed in a tight yellow shirt that said "Princess," Fontalvo didn't speak.

In a car outside the doctor's office, police found the real Shakira, alive and well.

Fontalvo, who lives in the Park View Apartments at 10935 Brittany Lane, Apt. 63, faces charges of grand theft, uttering a false instrument, scheme to defraud a financial institution and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, jail records show. She was held in jail on $12,000 bail.

Fontalvo's last arrest came in November, when investigators accused her of altering a death certificate. Investigators say she filed an fake insurance claim for her husband's death, even though the man was still alive.

That case has not been resolved, court records show.

Fontalvo, who has more than 20 aliases, served two years in prison from 1994 to 1996 and another stint from September 2003 to April 2005 for grand theft and forgery.

News researchers John Martin and Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Abbie VanSickle can be reached at (813) 226-3373 or vansickle@sptimes.com.

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