A former social worker at a veteran’s hospital who stole patient information to collect nearly $300,000 in cash and benefits has been sentenced to nearly six years in prison.
Sarah Jane Cavanaugh, 32, was sentenced to 70 months in prison and now must pay back the full amount fraudulently obtained in the five-year-long scam — $284,796.82, according to a Justice Department press release.
“Sarah Cavanaugh’s conduct in the course of her scheme is nothing short of appalling,” U.S. Attorney Zachary Cunha said. “By brazenly laying claim to the honor, service, and sacrifice of real veterans, this defendant preyed on the charity and decency of others for her own shameless financial gain.”
The former social worker did not serve in the military but had access to sensitive information in her role at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Providence, Rhode Island. She admitted to obtaining access from the personal records of a Marine with cancer to create documents in her own name, claiming that she had been honorably discharged.
Prosecutors said Cavanaugh also purchased replicas of a Purple Heart and Bronze Star that she wore on a Marine uniform at public events, according to the Associated Press. Her pleas for financial assistance included gifts from the Wounded Warrior program and Code of Support in Virginia to cover various expenses.
The scam was caught after Providence nonprofit HunterSeven reported her situation over suspicions of Cavanaugh’s requests for assistance, AP reported. Cavanaugh pleaded guilty in August.
“Sarah Cavanaugh’s conduct in the course of her scheme is nothing short of appalling,” Cunha said. “By brazenly laying claim to the honor, service, and sacrifice of real veterans, this defendant preyed on the charity and decency of others for her own shameless financial gain. I am grateful that, with today’s sentence, she has been brought to justice and will face the consequences of her actions.”
The ruling in the case sent 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,” according to Special Agent in Charge Christopher Algieri of the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General’s Northeast Field Office.