SAN DIEGO (CNS) — A Chula Vista woman who faked a cancer diagnosis to avoid prison time pleaded guilty Friday to a federal obstruction of justice count.
The U.S. Attorney's Office says Ashleigh Lynn Chavez, 37, was set to be sentenced to a likely prison term after pleading guilty to embezzling more than $160,000 from her former employer.
However, prior to her sentencing date, Chavez forged her doctor's signature on a note, which stated a biopsy had revealed "cancerous cells" in her uterus.
Though she was ultimately sentenced last year to just over a dozen years in federal prison, the forged doctor's notes allowed her to stay out of custody for three more months than originally permitted in order to receive medical treatment.
In addition to avoiding custody, prosecutors allege she attempted to avoid making restitution payments to the fraud victim, because she was supposedly too ill to work.
After she was sentenced, Chavez also forged more doctor's letters from two different San Diego-area physicians, according to her plea agreement.
One of the letters stated that her supposed cancer had progressed to Stage II and subsequent letters recommended she serve her time in home confinement rather than prison.
Prosecutors say Chavez wrote one of the letters under the name of a San Diego-area oncologist, which 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."
The U.S. Attorney's Office said one of the doctors previously treated Chavez, but not for cancer, while the other doctor had never heard of her. When contacted by government representatives, both doctors denied writing any of the letters.
Prosecutors say Chavez now faces up to an additional 10 years in prison.
"This defendant, already convicted of one fraud, worked for months to commit additional frauds on the federal court," said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. "While her dishonesty delayed payment of her debt to society, it will cost her still more time in prison."