Justice: Woman Who Stole Valor, Posed as Cancer Patient Finally Gets What's Coming to Her


A Rhode Island woman is paying the price for stolen valor.

Federal prosecutors announced that Sarah Jane Cavanaugh was sentenced to almost six years in federal prison in a Tuesday news release.

Cavanaugh was convicted of creating an elaborate fraud scheme in which she misrepresented herself as a U.S. Marine.

Cavanaugh never actually served in the military. She was employed by the Rhode Island Veterans Affairs Medical Center, a position which provided her access to information useful in stealing the identities of real veterans.

The fake Marine used her faux military affiliation to fund-raise $250,000 in cancer-related medical expenses — falsely claiming to have incurred the disease.

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Cavanaugh used the stolen personal information of a Navy veteran who actually had cancer to advance her scheme, according to Task & Purpose.

The fraudster claimed to have been awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star in her Marine Corps career, suffering injuries from an IED in Iraq.

Cavanaugh’s fraud was so successful that she even obtained a position as commander of a local Veterans of Foreign Wars post.

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Cavanaugh’s scheme began to unravel when the military charity HunterSeven announced it had been unable to find any records of her military service, according to Task & Purpose.

A retired Marine officer also noticed that Cavanaugh had claimed to be both a staff sergeant and corporal at the time of her discharge in different accounts.

The fraudster plead guilty to wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, forged military discharge certificate, and fraudulent use of military medals charges in August.

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A Boston-area FBI agent pointed to Cavanaugh’s scheme as disgraceful exploitation of military valor and benefits.

“Sarah Cavanagh feigned having cancer, and falsely claimed valor where there was none, to gain hundreds of thousands of dollars in benefits and charitable donations,” Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division Joseph R. Bonavolonta said.

“Make no mistake, the FBI and our law enforcement partners are committed to seeking justice for anyone who lies about serving our country and illegally takes money from federal programs that help veterans who rightfully deserve it.”

In addition to her prison sentence, a federal judge ordered Cavanaugh to repay $284,796.82 in restitution to victims of her fraud.

The Stolen Valor Act of 2013 criminalizes falsely claiming military service to obtain money, property, or any other tangible benefit.

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