CHULA VISTA, Calif. — A Chula Vista woman who is accused of faking a cancer diagnosis to avoid a prison sentence pleaded guilty Friday in the U.S. District Court of Southern California on a federal count of obstruction of justice, authorities said.
According to United States Attorney Randy Grossman, Ashleigh Lynn Chavez in court revealed that she “repeatedly forged doctor’s notes falsely indicating that she had been diagnosed with cancer” so that she could delay a 12-month prison sentence stemming from an incident in which she is suspected of embezzling more than $160,000 from a previous employer.
On the eve of Chavez’s sentencing in 2021, the Chula Vista woman is suspected of submitting a forged doctor’s note to her attorney- the letter claiming that Chavez has “cancerous cells” in her uterus and therefore would need to stay out of prison for three months to receive medical treatment. Chavez’s attorney then submitted the letter to the court, asking for leniency.
The woman then provided additional forged letters to a second attorney, using the names of two San Diego-area doctors, per court officials. This attorney, also believing the letters to be real, submitted them to the court for consideration.
“Ashleigh has limitations due to uterine cancer and future need for radiation,” said one letter, according to U.S. District Court officials.
Another letter stated that the Chula Vista resident’s “condition” had progressed and that cancer had spread from her uterus to her cervix, while another letter expressly stated that Chavez could not be exposed to COVID-19 due to her medical issues.
In August, the woman’s attorney told prosecutors that she was too ill to work and needed to be relieved of her restitution payments to the victim in the embezzlement case. Later that month, the letters began to press the court to reconsider the woman’s sentence and instead consider house arrest.
One letter Chavez is suspected of making stated, “(a) year in prison could be a death sentence for my patient… I highly recommend the chance to allow home confinement or anything else that you deem
appropriate rather than a year in prison.”
Just two weeks later, Chavez is believed to have forged a note from the same oncologist, stating “Ashleigh’s cancer, it has in fact metastasized affecting the lymph nodes… I recommend a different approach to her sentencing.”
Prosecutors say that the woman was never diagnosed or treated for cancer by either physician and that both doctors denied writing any letters on the woman’s behalf.
“This defendant, already convicted of one fraud, worked for months to commit additional frauds on the
federal court. While her dishonesty delayed payment of her debt to society, it will cost her still more time in prison,” said U.S. Attorney Grossman, who thanked the prosecution team and the FBI for their excellent work on the case.
The Chula Vista woman now faces an additional 10 years in prison and will be sentenced on June 27.
“The defendant went to great lengths to avoid reporting to prison for her prior fraud conviction by faking
doctor’s notes claiming she had cancer – an insult to cancer patients everywhere,” said FBI Special Agent
in Charge Stacey Moy. “May today’s guilty plea finally put an end to this odyssey to obstruct justice which,
in the end, will only add additional time to her sentence.”