PROVIDENCE, RI — A former social worker at Rhode Island Veteran’s Hospital who stole patient information used to pose as a Marine Corps veteran with cancer and fraudulently obtained nearly $300,000 in benefits, charitable contributions and donations Collected, he was sentenced on Tuesday. Almost six years in prison.
A US District Court in Providence also ordered Sarah Jane Cavanaugh, 32, to pay full restitution.
Cavanaugh attended public events in uniform where he spoke about the faces of the Veterans of the conflict, purchased a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star to wear, and was named Commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars post. Then, in early 2022 she was exposed when she became suspicious of a charity applying for funds and began a background check.
“Sarah Cavanaugh’s conduct during her scheme was not appalling,” US Attorney Zachary Cunha said in a statement. “Claiming the honor, service and sacrifice of genuine veterans, this defendant preyed on the charity and decency of others for his own shameless financial gain.”
Cavanaugh’s defense attorney, Kensley Barrett, sought a two-year sentence, citing his lack of criminal history, low risk of re-offending, and the “significant cost”, which he had already attributed to public humiliation, his Loss of professional license, paid through breakup. her wedding, and even death threats online.
Cavanaugh pleaded guilty in August to wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, forgery, and fraudulent use of medals, apologizing in court.
There is no record of Cavanaugh serving in the US military. However, she worked as a licensed social worker for the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Providence.
It was through the job that he gained access to documents, personal information and medical records relating to an actual veteran with cancer, which he used to create fake documents and medical records in his own name, stating that he had was honorably discharged and had cancer, the prosecutor said when he was indicted last March.
When Cavanaugh said she couldn’t afford the insurance deductible for her cancer treatment, the same veteran whose identity she had stolen and identified only by her initials in court papers agreed to pay for it. became – about $600 a month – an act prosecutors said “plunged to the depths of moral decadence”.
Cavanaugh said she served in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2009 to 2016, reaching the rank of corporal, and is being treated for lung cancer resulting from exposure to burn pits and particulate matter from bombings, according to officials. Was.
According to prosecutors, she accepted more than $225,000 from the Wounded Warrior Project alone to help pay for yoga classes, gym memberships, groceries and physical therapy.
Authorities said she took her cheating to extremes, telling people at her gym that an injury to her fingers had left her unable to tie her shoes, so she had someone else do them whenever she wanted to work out. Had to kneel down to tie her laces. Outside.
In a victim impact statement presented in court, she met an actual veteran, saying she obtained a position in the therapeutic Veterans arts program that could go to a veteran. The veteran told the court that a friend who applied for the program, known as CreativeVets, was not accepted and later took his own life. According to court documents, Cavanaugh received $15,000 from the program.
Prosecutors said she received about $18,500 in financial support from the Support Code in Virginia for Bills and about $4,700 from a fundraising website.
An investigation was launched after the Providence non-profit HunterSeven Foundation, which helps ill veterans, contacted the Providence VA because they were suspicious of Cavanaugh when he requested assistance from them.
His attorney wrote in court documents that Cavanaugh, who was also ordered to pay full restitution, is remorseful. She suffered from “severe trauma during her formative years in high school”, and through her job developed relationships with the veterans she cared for.
“Today’s sentencing sends a strong message to those who would present themselves as someone they are not in order to benefit from the kindness and respect shown to our country’s deserving veterans,” said Christopher Algieri, Principal Office of the VA’s Office of the Inspector General for the Northeast Region.