MOUNT HOLLY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A New Jersey woman is facing serious charges after being accused of scheming relatives and others by falsely claiming she had cancer.
Lori Stilley, 40, of Delran, has been charged with theft by deception, prosecutors said.
Lisa DeGiovanni said her sister pretended to suffer from Stage IV bladder cancer, deceiving everyone, including her two young children.
“It keeps me awake almost very night to think that my niece and nephew have thought that their mother was going to leave them,” DeGiovanni said.
Prosecutors said the scam dates back to February 2011 when Stilley apparently told those close to her that she had been diagnosed with the disease. She also posted a message on Facebook saying she would have to undergo radiation and chemotherapy treatment, CBS 2’s Mary Calvi reported.
Stilley quickly began to receive an outpouring of support.
“A lot of people used to deliver food over to her house, every night. I mean these people, they’re like middle class, they couldn’t afford it,” one neighbor said.
Supporters raised close to $10,000 after Stilley claimed she didn’t have health insurance, prosecutors said. Stilley also collected $3,000 in proceeds from an e-book she wrote, chronicling her daily struggles with the disease, prosecutors said.
“Had me for a long time. My wife would wake up in the middle of the night crying and banging the bed, ‘how can God do this to her?'” Stilley’s brother-in-law Mike DeGiovanni told CBS 2’s Dana Tyler.
DeGiovanni said she even threw a wedding for her sister so that she could get married before she died.
The scheme began to unravel in November 2011 when police said Stilley cancelled plans to enter hospice care, posting on Facebook that she was feeling better and believed a miracle was coming.
Friends and family became suspicious.
“The day before she was to go in hospice, she came to my daughter’s playoff field hockey game, and it was very dramatic in a wheelchair, and she was supposed to be going into hospice the next day and I’m staring at her, saying she just doesn’t look sick,” DeGiovanni said.
After speaking with her sister’s personal doctor, DeGiovanni said she decided to call the police.
The investigation revealed that Stilley had never been treated for or even diagnosed with cancer, prosecutors said.
“Cancer causes so much pain and hardship for those who are suffering through it, as well as for family members and friends,” prosecutor Robert D. Bernardi said. “For this defendant to represent that she was dying from this terrible disease for the sake of personal gain and sympathy goes way beyond simply being a criminal offense; it was extremely cruel to those who were concerned and worked hard to lend assistance.”
Stilley is free on $25,000 bail.
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