California woman avoided prison by forging notes and faking cancer, prosecutors say

SAN DIEGO — A California woman was sentenced to spend years in prison after prosecutors said she delayed sentencing for an embezzlement conviction by pretending she had cancer.

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Ashleigh Lynn Chavez was sentenced to spend 24 months in prison for forging doctors’ notes in addition to the 12 months and one day she was sentenced to for a conspiracy to embezzle money from her previous employer, prosecutors said in a news release.

Before her scheduled sentencing on March 31, 2021, prosecutors said that Chavez forged a doctor’s note claiming that a biopsy revealed cancerous cells in her uterus, and then provided the note to her attorney. The attorney, believing the note to be real, submitted it to the court and successfully argued for Chavez to remain out of custody for three months to receive medical treatment.

Chavez then hired a new attorney, to whom she provided two additional forged letters from two different doctors. Those notes not only allowed her to avoid serving her jail sentence, but also indicated she was too ill to work and needed to be relieved of her monthly obligation to pay restitution in the embezzlement case, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said that Chavez was never diagnosed with cancer and the doctors, when contacted, denied writing any of the notes attributed to them. Chavez had previously been a patient of one doctor, but another said he had no idea how his identity had been stolen.

Chavez’s attorney told the judge that his client had given birth while awaiting sentencing and was terrified about the prospect of being away from her son, The San Diego Union Tribune reported. The attorney said that while Chavez does not have cancer, she does have some medical problems.

At the sentencing hearing Tuesday morning, Chavez apologized to the judge, saying, “I did not mean any form of disrespect. I was just scared,” KNSD reported.