A Chula Vista woman admitted to forging doctor's notes that said she had endometrial cancer so she could dodge prison time for another fraud conviction, according to the United States Attorney's Office.
In November of 2019, Ashleigh Lynn Chavez, 37, pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $160,000 from an employer.
On March 30, 2021, the day before Chavez was set to be sentenced to likely prison time, she forged a doctor's note that said she had cancer in her uterus, according to federal prosecutors.
Chavez was sentenced to 1 year and 1 day in federal prison but was allowed to remain out of custody for three months to seek treatment she didn't need, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
New letters were forged that suggested Chavez's case was worsening and they bought her more time out of prison. Fake letters from doctors said she needed surgery, spent time in a hospital, and that her cancer had progressed to Stage II and had spread to her cervix, according to prosecutors.
Five months after her sentencing, new forged doctor's notes recommended the court reconsider Chavez's sentence and allow her to serve a home confinement term instead, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
"A year in prison could be a death sentence for my patient … I highly recommend the chance to allow home confinement or anything else that you deem appropriate rather than a year in prison," one letter attributed to a San Diego-area oncologist said.
Two weeks later, another forged letter from the same doctor said Chavez's cancer "has in fact metastasized affecting the lymph nodes … I recommend a different approach to her sentencing," according to prosecutors.
Chavez was never diagnosed with or treated for cancer, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. Though she was at one point a patient of one of the doctors she forged notes from, both denied writing letters on her behalf.
On Friday, Chavez pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and admitted to faking the cancer diagnosis and forging doctor's notes.
“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,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Stacey Moy. “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.”
Chavez could spend up to 10 additional years in prison after her sentencing scheduled for June 27.