A California woman sentenced to a year in prison for embezzlement avoided being held in prison for at least six months after submitting fake doctor notes to a federal judge claiming she was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer, federal officials.
One note submitted to the federal judge sentencing Ashleigh Lynn Chavez, 38, claimed that a biopsy had revealed “cancerous cells” in her uterus.
Another indicated she was undergoing a surgical procedure and her cancer had spread to the cervix.
Yet another letter warned she “cannot be exposed to Covid-19” because of her fragile state.
But federal officials say the notes and cancer were all fake, and now Chavez is headed to prison for three times as long.
The court this week added another two years to her original sentence.
The claim of having cancer kept Chavez out on bond between pleading guilty in 2019 to embezzling more than $160,000 from her former employer, and her sentencing hearing on March 31, 2021.
The notes then bought her another three months of freedom from the judge, who believed she was receiving medical treatment, said the US Attorney’s office for the Southern District of California.
All told, Chavez was able to avoid being locked up for six months, federal officials said.
Chavez's attorney, Benjamin Kington, said in a sentencing note that she was "terrified" about being separated from her new-born son, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
The notes also claimed she was too ill to work and could not make restitution payments to her former employer.
Two different attorneys hired by Chavez believed the notes were authentic and submitted them to the court, federal officials said.
By August 2021, the notes forged by Chavez were asking the court to permit her to serve time in home confinement.
In one forged note, attributed to a San Diego-area oncologist, Chavez wrote that a “year in prison could be a death sentence for my patient”.
Federal authorities contacted the doctors named in the letters who denied writing them, although Chavez had been a patient of one of them, the federal officials said.
“This defendant went to appalling lengths to avoid her initial prison sentence by falsifying medical documents to claim she had cancer," FBI Special Agent in Charge Stacey Moy said.
"This offensive conduct is an affront to every person fighting that battle."