Woman Pretended to Be Marine With Cancer, Stole Benefits and Donations

Federal officials say a woman from Rhode Island lied about being in the U.S. military and getting cancer because of it. She did this to get over $250,000 in benefits and charitable donations “reserved for injured veterans.” She is going to jail now.

A news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Rhode Island on March 14 said that Sarah Jane Cavanaugh, age 32, worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs at the Rhode Island Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Her job was to help people who had been in the military.

McClatchy News reached out to Cavanaugh’s lawyer, Kensley Barrett, on March 15 and was waiting for a response.

Officials say that while Cavanaugh worked at the center, she “used her position to steal veterans’ identities, their combat experiences, their diagnoses of illness, and their rank” in order to get more than $250,000 “in cash, charitable donations, and services.”

According to the release, Cavanaugh pretended to be a “Purple Heart and Bronze Star-decorated United States Marine” and said that her service gave her cancer.

The Woman Tricked Nine Charities

Officials say the woman tricked nine charities for veterans into paying for her to go to retreats, get in-home care, join a gym, get physical therapy, pay her electric bills, and buy groceries with gift cards.

In the release, U.S. Attorney Zachary Cunha said that Sarah Cavanaugh’s actions during her plan were “absolutely disgusting.” “By brazenly claiming the honor, service, and sacrifice of real veterans, this defendant took advantage of the kindness and decency of others to make money without any shame.”

A news release says that the woman gave speeches while wearing a U.S. Marine uniform and a Purple Heart and Bronze Star that she bought online. Prosecutors say she also lied about her experience to get into a program at the University of Southern California.

The tweet below verifies the news:

The government said that she pleaded guilty in August.

She got five years and ten months in federal prison, then three years of federal supervision after she got out. She was also told to pay the people she scammed $284,796.82, officials said.

Barrett told CBS News that he wanted to give Cavanaugh a two-year sentence because she has never been convicted of a crime and has already been “publicly shamed, lost her professional license, had her marriage end, and even received online death threats.”

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