Sarah Jane Cavanaugh’s story of combat injuries while serving as a Marine in Iraq and her subsequent cancer diagnosis upon returning to civilian life brought out the generosity of multiple veterans’ groups to the tune of more than a quarter of a million dollars. For five years she remained a sympathetic figure and a symbol of how we need to do better for our veterans when they return from combat. The problem is that the entire story was a lie. Cavanaugh was a social worker for the VA who had access to actual veterans’ records and altered them to back up her story. Yesterday, she learned her fate from a judge. The deplorable fraudster will spend six years in prison and will have to pay back all of the money (NY Post)
A Rhode Island woman who lied about being an injured Marine Corps veteran diagnosed with cancer was sentenced to nearly six years in prison and ordered to pay back full restitution on Tuesday.
Sarah Jane Cavanaugh, 32, collected more than $250,000 in charitable contributions, veteran benefits, and donations during her stolen valor run.
“Today’s sentencing sends a strong message to those who would represent themselves as something they’re not in order to profit from the kindness and respect shown to our nation’s deserving veterans,” Special Agent in Charge Christopher Algieri of the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General’s Northeast Field Office said in a statement.
They should have given her the 24 years that was the maximum sentence for aggravated identity theft, forged military discharge certificates, fraudulent use of military medals, and four counts of wire fraud. Unfortunately, a plea deal was struck and she got off with less than six years. She might be out in as little as three. She’d better hope there aren’t any actual marines in whichever lockup she winds up in. Better yet, they should send her to Gitmo and have Marines guard her there.
This entire story is infuriating and simply makes my blood boil. Cavanaugh was constantly giving interviews to whichever media outlets would have her, and many were eager to tell her “heroic” story. She just kept adding more layers to the tale as the years went by. She claimed to have served in combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan. She said she had been blown up by an IED and her fake lung cancer had been caused by the fumes from burn pits and particulate matter from an explosive device.
Even more horrendous is the fact that she took the medical records of actual wounded heroes to “qualify” for the benefits she asked for. Her supposed medical condition qualified her for a spot in a therapeutic veterans art program. One actual Marine who testified against her told the story of a friend (another Marine) who applied for that program but was denied. The veteran later took his own life.
Cavanaugh obtained other people’s actual Marine uniforms to wear to public events and speeches. She had the nerve to adorn her uniforms with a Purple Heart and the Bronze Star with a “V” device for valor. She even accepted a position as the commander of a VFW post in Rhode Island. And she never served a single day in the military, to say nothing of actually facing combat.
I never had to face combat because I served during the cold war. (Though we came close during the Iran hostage crisis.) But my father nearly had his arm blown off by tank shrapnel during the relief of Bastogne in World War 2. Our extended family lost two brave men in Vietnam. This repulsive woman soaked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in veterans’ aid that could have been used by actual disabled veterans. Just looking at her grinning face in those pictures makes me want to smash my fist through a window. She should be shunned by all decent people if and when she is released from prison.