SAN DIEGO — A Chula Vista woman was sentenced to an additional two years in prison for attempting to avoid jail for a fraud conviction by faking cancer, authorities said.
Ashleigh Lynn Chavez, 38, was found guilty of forging doctors’ notes and falsely indicating she had been diagnosed with cancer, which were then submitted to the federal judge, the Office of the United States Attorney Southern District of California stated in a news release Tuesday. She previously pleaded guilty of obstructing justice in April while serving 12 months and one day in federal prison for embezzling more than $160,000 from a former employer.
According to attorneys, Chavez created a doctor’s note on the eve of her sentencing falsely claiming that a biopsy had revealed “cancerous cells” in her uterus. She had forged the signature of her doctor’s letter.
“Chavez provided the note to her attorney who, believing it to be genuine, submitted it to the court and to the assigned prosecutor in a bid for leniency,” United States Attorney Randy S. Grossman said. “As a direct result of the forged doctor’s note she had caused her attorney to submit, Chavez was permitted to remain out of custody for an additional three months so that she could allegedly receive medical treatment.”
Additional forged letters were created and provided to Chavez’s newly-hired attorney from two different San Diego-area physicians after her sentencing, her plea agreement revealed. The new attorney also believed the letters to be legitimate and submitted them to the court.
One of the letters impersonated an oncologist saying, “Ashleigh has limitations due to uterine cancer and future need for radiation,” while others indicated that she was undergoing a surgical procedure, had been admitted to the hospital and that her “condition has progressed…to Stage II; the cancer has spread to the cervix.”
It was later disclosed that Chavez was never diagnosed with or treated for cancer by either doctor, with both denying writing any of the letters attributed to them, officials confirmed.
“While Chavez had been a patient of one, the second doctor had never heard of her and had no idea how or why his identity had been stolen and his signature repeatedly forged by Chavez. In total, Chavez was able to delay serving her sentence for six months prior to her fraud being exposed. During that time, Chavez paid zero restitution to the victim of her embezzlement,” Grossman said.
Chavez was sentenced for obstruction of justice, which has a maximum penalty of 10 years in custody and a $250,000 fine.