Woman takes stand in own defense in cancer charity case - it doesn't go well

Andrea Vasquez, 46, sentenced to eight years in prison

SAN ANTONIO – A San Antonio woman who had already pleaded guilty in a cancer charity theft case took the stand in her own defense during sentencing this month, a decision that appeared to immediately backfire.

Andrea Vasquez, 46, was sentenced to eight years in prison Nov. 7, the maximum sentence allowed as part of a plea agreement signed with prosecutors in late August.

"You know what the most offensive, disgusting part of this whole proceeding is? Is that your response is 'If I did anything wrong, it was not watching what my daughter did,'" said 187th District Court Judge Joey Contreras, who laid into Vasquez for several minutes before sentencing her.

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"The most insidious disease, the most painful one, that everyone in this room has lost someone to, you use that to get into peoples' hearts and in their wallets and cheat 'em and steal."

The remarks came after Vasquez's testimony, which was riddled with inconsistencies, including the defendant falsely claiming she was 43 years old and has only been arrested a few times.

Bexar County court records alone show that Vasquez had been the defendant in 14 theft of check cases prior to this case.

Vasquez, a convicted felon with a history of theft in multiple states, was indicted on four felony theft charges in April 2017 after she hosted a charity fashion show and then never turned over its proceeds or paid vendors for the event.

"I have no idea or anything of the fashion business at all. I don't. I was mom. That's all I was," Vasquez said while on the witness stand, blaming the failed event on a foundation created by her teenage daughter called "Fashion for Cancer Foundation."

Public records show no charity by the name was ever registered as a nonprofit in Texas.

Vasquez swayed between claiming she had no knowledge of how the event was set up to giving specific details about why it had failed.

"I wanted to negotiate with her, to say, 'You know, what you've done is not worth $10,000 worth of work,'" said Vasquez, referring to fashion designer Calley Andrews, who had just testified that she was not paid for her work.

Andrews testified that after she publicized not being paid by Vasquez for her work, Vasquez sued her for $1 million in late 2016 for tortious interference, claiming that the social media posts kept her daughter's foundation from lining up future charity events.

A judge dismissed the lawsuit in September and ordered Vasquez to pay Andrews what she was owed.

Two other vendors associated with the failed charity event testified that Vasquez made excuse after excuse about why they were not paid once the show was finished.

"Morally bankrupt"

San Antonio Police Department Officer Anthony Bancroft provided some of the most damning testimony against Vasquez, describing a May 1999 intoxication manslaughter case he handled in which a car driven by Vasquez struck another vehicle parked along U.S. 281.

"I found pretty significant carnage on the right shoulder of the road," said Bancroft, who testified that the impact was so extreme, the parked car was moved 100 feet.

A woman in the back seat of the parked vehicle died, while a 4-year-old was found unresponsive but later survived with significant injuries, according to Bancroft.

SAPD's investigation later revealed that Vasquez had ingested at least four pills from a recently filled prescription shortly before the crash. That felony conviction caused the theft charges against her to be enhanced.

Vasquez was indicted again in August and eventually agreed to plead guilty.

Prosecutors, who referred to Vasquez as "morally bankrupt" during sentencing, also discussed allegations first revealed in a May 2017 Defenders investigation that Vasquez had posed at times as a licensed attorney.

Court records show that Vasquez's previous attorney withdrew from the case last November.

Vasquez attempted to delay sentencing by asking that her current attorney be replaced. Contreras denied the motion. 

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