There are few things so cruel and tragic in this world as losing a newborn child. It’s abhorrent to think, then, that anyone would ever attempt to exploit that situation for their own personal gain. However, that’s exactly what one Pennsylvania couple allegedly did, when they apparently claimed that their baby boy had passed away mere hours after being born.
Geoffrey and Kaycee Lang hail from Somerset, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. And the announcement of their pregnancy was a cause for celebration among friends, as it usually is for expecting parents. According to latter’s best friend Cynthia Dilascio, the Langs had apparently been expecting once before; but they told their friends that they’d lost the baby.
From the outside, everything about the Langs’ pregnancy looked real. The couple set up a baby registry full of gifts for people to buy for their newborn, ranging from $2.99 all the way up to $69.99. Among the items on the list were numerous clothes, teething dolls, a blanket, a car booster seat and an activity center.
Kaycee Lang later posted on her Facebook page, “Any guesses on [the baby’s] gender? We will be announcing in a few weeks.” The couple also asked friend Cynthia Dilascio to host a baby shower for them, to which their supportive friend duly obliged. As a result, she organized the shower and gender reveal party in May 2019 at the Langs’ house in Westmoreland County.
Dilascio spent almost $300 of her own money preparing the event, which would see the Langs being showered in gifts for their baby’s upcoming arrival. Grandparents and great-grandparents contributed cash and groceries to the couple, while friends followed suit with money, gift cards and baby supplies.
Two months later, the couple announced the arrival of their newborn baby, Easton Walt Lang. According to the pair, their son had been delivered at 3:11 A.M. on July 3, at Johnstown’s Conemaugh Ob/Gyn Associates hospital. The Langs even shared pictures of baby Easton on Facebook, wrapped in a blanket. However, heartbreak was to follow.
Losing a child is undoubtedly one of the worst things that could ever happen to a parent. It doesn’t matter how old that child is – the loss will be felt all the same. And the feelings that come with it are torturous: anger, despair, guilt, loneliness and depression can all follow, often for many years later.
The loss of a child can also take a toll on the parents’ relationships with others, according to psychologist Marilyn A. Mendoza. She wrote for Psychology Today in 2016, “People are uneasy and reluctant to talk about death, and certainly not about the death of a child. Many people will pull away from a family that has suffered [such a loss], as though somehow having a child die is contagious.”
Studies have also shown that losing a child can also have a negative impact on the parents’ relationship with each other. Much of this may be down to the different ways in which people grieve, and the inability of parents to comfort each other sufficiently. Nevertheless, a 2006 report by The Compassionate Friends found that only 16 percent of parents divorced following the loss of their child.
In the summer of 2019, the Langs were supposedly about to find all this out for themselves. Tragically, the couple announced on July 7 that baby Easton had passed away just hours after his birth. The newborn had apparently suffered from respiratory distress syndrome – a condition that results in breathing difficulties and is caused by underdeveloped lungs.
The Langs then ran an obituary for their son on the website of a local newspaper. It read, “He weighed seven pounds, two ounces, and was 17 inches long. Easton’s parents were blessed with just a little over five hours before he went to his heavenly home at 8:20 a.m. Easton experienced holding hands and hugs and kisses with his mommy and daddy and being told [an] uncountable number of ‘I love you’s’.”
In a Facebook post announcing Easton’s passing, Geoffrey Lang then asked his friends and family for donations to cover funeral and medical expenses. And once again, everyone came to the the couple’s aid; they raised a total of $550 from well-wishers after posting their plea to a GoFundMe page.
By now, however, their friend Cynthia Dilascio had begun to grow suspicious of the couple. She’d first grown skeptical at the gender reveal party, when Kaycee Lang had revealed that she’d be having a son. She told Action News 4 in August 2019, “When I saw the envelope and opened it and saw it was just a blue piece of paper, I was like, ‘Mmm that’s kind of odd, but maybe that’s how they do this nowadays.’”
Then, around seven months into their pregnancy, the couple apparently disappeared altogether – only adding to Dilascio’s wariness over the whole situation. And it was only after Kaycee Lang claimed to have given birth that she contacted her friend again.
“I got a call from her mother, crying saying Kaycee had [given birth],” Dilascio told CBS Pittsburgh in August 2019. “But the baby [had] died at the hospital.” The supposedly grieving parents then organized a memorial for baby Easton, and invited Dilascio to attend. However, she was now doubtful that the baby had ever existed, and refused to show up.
Determined to get to the bottom of the story, Dilascio called the funeral home where Easton had apparently been cremated. But the home had no record of the baby on their books; so on July 19 she reported her friends to the police, alerting them to her suspicions that the Langs had faked the baby’s existence.
The cops then checked with the Somerset County Coroner’s Office to see if they’d heard of Easton, but to no avail. A similar response awaited investigators at the Cambria County Coroner’s Office, and even at Conemaugh Ob/Gyn Associates, where Kaycee Lang had claimed to have given birth.
Police then interviewed Kaycee and Geoffrey Lang on August 5, 2019. Both stuck to their original story that Easton had been born but passed away shortly after, as a result of respiratory distress syndrome. Geoffrey claimed that he hadn’t been present at his son’s birth, but the baby had fluid on his lungs, and his heart rate had dropped significantly.
The following day, investigators obtained a search warrant for the Langs’ house – and they were shocked by what they found there. Alongside an urn with the name “Easton Walt Lang” etched into the side, officers also discovered what they called a “life-like newborn baby doll.”
Police now suspected that the couple had used the doll to fake Easton’s entire existence, by using pictures of it on Facebook and GoFundMe. The probable cause statement for the case read, “Pictures of the baby were posted on Kaycee and Geoffrey’s Facebook pages. The baby matched the appearance of a new-born look-a-like baby doll.”
Cynthia Dilascio pressed charges against the couple for fraud, and they’re now set to appear in court on October 1, 2019. Attempts by the media to reach out to the couple have gone unanswered, but Dilascio told CNN, “She does this stuff, there’s people who can’t have a baby or who have lost a kid, and she does this. It’s sick.”
And though the Langs are currently facing misdemeanor charges, that could change. Pennsylvania State Police spokesperson Steve Limani told CNN that the couple could end up facing felony charges if they received more than $2,000. And with more potential victims allegedly still to come forward, that’s not out of the question.
“It’s not even about the money, it’s more about the emotional part that she actually did this to her family and to me and the people who were there for her, who cared,” Dilascio told CNN. And she added to Action News 4, “I don’t know what their motive was but to hurt your family and everybody is just sick.”
Elsewhere, GoFundMe issued a statement assuring that all of the Langs’ alleged victims would be compensated for their donations. The crowdfunding platform announced in August 2019, “This type of behavior is not tolerated on GoFundMe. We will fully cooperate with law enforcement officials during their investigation and we will issue full refunds to all donors.”
“We have a zero-tolerance policy for any misuse on the platform,” the crowdfunding platform told WTAE-TV. “All donors are fully protected by the GoFundMe Guarantee, which means donors are protected by a comprehensive refund policy if misuse occurs. This campaign received 15 donations totaling $550.”
This isn’t the first time someone has allegedly faked a pregnancy for financial gain, however. Back in 2018 a couple from California announced on social media that they were hoping to adopt a child. And they were soon contacted by a woman from Virginia, Elizabeth Jones, who had claimed she was expecting a daughter in November.
Laura and Matt Trayte paid for meals and gifts for Jones, and the former even traveled to Virginia to meet the supposedly expectant mother. She also took Jones and her children to dinner, paid for a professional photo shoot, and rented movies for the family. The latter, meanwhile, kept the couple updated with ultrasound pictures.
Then, in November 2018 the Traytes both flew out to Virginia in time for the baby’s apparent arrival. During that trip, they paid for more gifts for Jones and took her out for dinner again. But on the morning the baby was due, she messaged the couple to tell them that she was giving birth in her car on a roadside.
Laura Trayte then called Jones, reassuring her over the phone and helping her breathe. At the time, the couple believed they were helping her give birth to their daughter. The supposedly expectant mother then made her way to a hospital; but when the Traytes arrived, Jones pretended that she didn’t know who they were.
In fact, Jones simply said she was suffering from back pain. So the question remained: what had happened to the baby? Jones later sent a note to the Traytes, stating that she had suffered a miscarriage months ago. Eventually, though, the real truth came out; Jones had never been pregnant at all.
In March 2019 a grand jury indicted Jones on nine felony counts of larceny. She has two previous convictions of the same felony, albeit related to credit card fraud. In June that year she pleaded guilty to eight of the charges, and is now serving two years in prison, with another eight-year suspended sentence to follow.
“I feel relieved and thankful that justice has prevailed,” Matt Trayte told the Orange County Register in June 2019. “We were able to hold her accountable for her actions.” And special prosecutor Chuck Slemp added, “Her lies resulted in the theft of more than just property, more than just money and meals. She intentionally inflicted pain on individuals.”
It’s not inherently illegal to fake a pregnancy; however, doing so for financial reasons can land you in legal hot water. Pamela Mackey, a criminal defense attorney who represented basketball star Kobe Bryant in his rape case, told The Atlantic in 2013 that misleading someone this way constitutes “theft by deception.”
“If you deceive someone into giving you money, that’s a crime,” Mackey continued. Fellow criminal defense attorney Seema Iyer then added to The Atlantic that faking a pregnancy for personal gain could also violate criminal impersonation statutes. However, she noted that prosecutors would most likely press charges of harassment or larceny.
Nevertheless, the potential legal ramifications haven’t stopped people from buying and selling positive pregnancy tests through online marketplaces, such as Craigslist. Celebrity divorce attorney Raoul Felder told the magazine that it’s “a new wrinkle on an old scam.” He added that in the past, women would tell multiple men that they were pregnant, and demand cash to get an abortion.
According to Mackey, even selling positive pregnancy tests is illegal. She said, “I would hazard to guess that a creative prosecutor would try to go after someone like that on complicity, conspiracy, and aiding and abetting.” And Iyer agreed that both buyers and sellers of positive pregnancy tests can be open to prosecution.
Geoffrey and Kaycee Lang’s alleged scheme also isn’t the first time people have attempted to exploit crowdfunding platforms for their own gain. For instance, in 2017 Victoria Morrison from Carson City, Nevada, raised around $2,000 on GoFundMe, after she faked the death of her son. After police realized he was alive, Morrison was arrested and sentenced to a minimum of five years in prison.
Elsewhere, back in 2016 Brandy Holder set up a GoFundMe campaign for a memorial duck hunt for Barry Sutton, a former police officer killed in Afghanistan. However, the hunt never went ahead, and Holder stole almost $5,000 from the campaign. Sutton’s family, meanwhile, only received $400. The former was subsequently arrested and received a two-year prison sentence.
A year earlier, Cynthia Lynn Smith from Burlington in Ontario attempted to raise an eye-watering $1.6 million on GoFundMe – for medical treatment she never needed. The campaign raised $126,594 before it was shut down, but Smith was only charged with one count of fraud under $5,000. Apparently, the vast majority of the money was never recovered.
Of all the ways people have attempted to pull scams on GoFundMe, though, few have been as serious as to fake a pregnancy and subsequent death of a child – as Geoffrey and Kaycee Lang allegedly did. They’re now facing a pretrial in October 2019, where more details of the case may yet emerge.