Rhode Island woman gets six years in prison for posing as sick veteran

Court documents described her conduct as being "among the more reprehensible seen in this District from a fraud defendant."

Updated: March 16, 2023 - 4:16pm

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A Rhode Island woman was sentenced this week to six years in prison for her role in a fraud scheme in which she falsely claimed to be a military veteran to enrich herself.

Sarah Jane Cavanaugh admitted she used her civilian post at the Rhode Island Veterans Affairs Medical Center to assume the identities of actual veterans and use their information to obtain more than $250,000 through channels reserved for injured veterans, according to the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Rhode Island.

She pleaded guilty last year to numerous charges, among them wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. U.S. District Court Chief Judge John J. McConnell this week sentenced her to 70 months in prison and 3 years of supervised release. She further was ordered to pay restitution totaling $284,796.82.

Over the course of five years, Cavanaugh crafted an identity as an injured veteran who contracted cancer and survived the explosion of an improvised explosive device (IED). She used her assumed persona to network within the veterans community, take leadership roles among veterans, and to illicitly secure funds for her own use.

"Nine veterans’ charities combined to fund Cavanaugh’s travel to retreats, in-home care, gym memberships, physical therapy, paying electric bills, and provided donated gift cards for use in obtaining groceries and other essentials," the release indicated. "Cavanaugh also used false documentation to fraudulently obtain months of paid leave from two federal employee benefit programs  based on her cancer claims."

Court documents described her conduct as being "among the more reprehensible seen in this District from a fraud defendant."

Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division Joseph R. Bonavolonta condemned Cavanaugh's actions, saying she "feigned having cancer, and falsely claimed valor where there was none, to gain hundreds of thousands of dollars in benefits and charitable donations."

"Her actions are an insult to every veteran who has served our country, and today she learned her fate for her criminal conduct," he continued.

Ben Whedon is an editor and reporter for Just the News. Follow him on Twitter.

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