What would you do if you were set to spend time in prison for a crime that you committed? File appeals? Seek all legal recourses? However, a 37-year old US woman did the unthinkable to avoid her sentence: faked cancer and forged notes to validate her 'diagnoses'.

Ashleigh Lynn Chavez, from Chula Vista, California, pleaded guilty on Friday to obstruction of justice and confessed to repeatedly forging letters to support her false diagnoses of cancer. The intention of her actions was to avoid a one-year sentence that she was handed for embezzling thousands of dollars from a previous employer. She now faces additional time in prison for the second crime.

"The defendant went to great lengths to avoid reporting to prison for her prior fraud conviction by faking doctor's notes claiming she had cancer – an insult to cancer patients everywhere. May today's guilty plea finally put an end to this odyssey to obstruct justice which, in the end, will only add additional time to her sentence," said Stacey Moy, Special Agent in Charge, FBI, in a statement.

Diagnosed with 'Cancer'

Sick (Representational Picture)Flickr/ Ryan Hyde

According to court documents, Chavez pleaded guilty in November 2019 to a conspiracy charge. She admitted to embezzling over $160,000 from her former employer. While she faced a potential prison term, she was allowed to remain out of custody with her sentence pending.

However, a day before her sentencing, Chavez fabricated a doctor's note and forged his signature. The document falsely stated that 'cancerous cells' had been discovered in her uterus during a biopsy. She provided the fake note to her unassuming attorney, who believed it to be genuine, and submitted it to the assigned prosecutor and the court; in hopes of seeking leniency for his client.

Nevertheless, Chavez received a sentence of 12 months and one day in federal prison on 31 March 2021. On account of the forged note that she deceived her attorney into submitting, she was allowed to remain out of custody for an additional period of three months so that she could seek the necessary treatment.

Continuing to Forge Letters

Signature (Representational Picture)Peakpx

Following her sentencing hearing, Chavez engaged the services of a new attorney; supplying him with more forged letters from two other physicians. Believing that the letters were authentic, the new attorney also submitted the letters to the court and the assigned prosecutor. One of the forged letters, supposedly from an oncologist, read, "Ashleigh has limitations due to uterine cancer and future need for radiation."

Some of the letters stated that Chavez had been hospitalized and was undergoing a surgical procedure. A letter said that her "condition has progressed... to Stage II; the cancer has spread to the cervix." Another note declared that "she cannot be exposed to COVID-19" because of her purported weak state.

Chavez was apparently set to commence her chemotherapy treatment in August 2021. Her new attorney reached out to the prosecutor and stated that she was unfit for work due to increased sickness. Additionally, as a result of her 'condition', she sought to be excused from monthly restitution obligations to her former employer owing to the previous case.

Lies Exposed

Woman in prison (Representational Picture)Negativespace.co

As time progressed, Chavez forged notes were blatantly recommending exemptions from her prison sentence. By August 2021, her notes urged the court to re-examine her prison sentence and to permit Chavez to serve the time in home confinement instead. One of her fake notes from an 'oncologist' made a strong case for serving her time outside prison.

Two weeks later, she created another note attributed to the same doctor claiming that "Ashleigh's cancer, it has in fact metastasized affecting the lymph nodes... I recommend a different approach to her sentencing." Unfortunately for Chavez, her luck ran out. When the doctors credited with the notes were approached by authorities, they denied issuing any of the letters ascribed to them.

Though Chavez had once been a patient of one of the doctors, the other had never treated her. He was shocked to learn about the theft of his identity and that his signature had been forged repeatedly by Chavez.

"This defendant, already convicted of one fraud, worked for months to commit additional frauds on the federal court. While her dishonesty delayed payment of her debt to society, it will cost her still more time in prison," said US Attorney Randy Grossman, in a statement. Chavez now faces up to 10 additional years in federal prison. Her sentencing is scheduled for 27 June 2022.