Rhode Island woman who impersonated a Marine with cancer to take more than $250,000 in donations

A Rhode Island woman who sang about being a wounded Marine who was diagnosed with cancer was sentenced to nearly six years in prison and ordered to pay full damages Tuesday.

Sarah Jane Cavanaugh, 32, has amassed more than $250,000 in charitable contributions, veteran benefits, and donations during her Stolen Courage.

“Today’s ruling sends a powerful message to those who represent themselves as not in order to benefit from the kindness and respect our nation’s deserving veterans have shown,” said Special Agent Christopher Algieri of the Northeast’s Office of Veterans Affairs’ Office of Veterans Affairs. he said in a statement.

The impostor, whose stolen stint of bravery lasted more than five years, was awarded a Marine Corps uniform to wear to public events and speeches while displaying a Purple Heart and Bronze Star with a “V” for valor in combat on her chest.

Kavanaugh claimed that she served in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2009 through 2016 and that she was hit by an improvised explosive device while serving in Iraq.

It alleged that digging holes and inhaling particles of an explosive material caused lung cancer.

Kavanaugh was appointed as the captain of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in North Kingstown, RI, giving her more than $6,000 while in the position from 2016 to 2022.
VFW Division or Rhode Island/Facebook

Nine veterans’ charities set aside money for Kavanaugh, which she used to pay for physical therapy, in-home care, retreats, gym memberships, electric bills, and even gift cards for groceries and other essentials.

Kavanaugh received $207,000 from the Wounded Warriors Project between 2017 and 2021, according to Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

In an impact statement filed with the court, a veteran whom Kavanaugh met through the Wounded Veteran Project blasted the fraud, saying she took a veterans treatment program that could have been used by a veteran in need of care.

Background checks on her military service show that Kavanaugh has never been in any branch of the US military.
Youtube / internal copy

The unidentified veteran revealed that a friend – who was also a veteran – applied for the place but was denied and eventually committed suicide, Show court document.

Kavanaugh raised $4,700 while fundraising to help pay medical bills stemming from the fabricated injury.

Kavanaugh pleaded guilty For aggravated identity theft, fraudulent military discharge certificates, fraudulent use of military medals, and four counts of wire fraud in July 2022.

Road Island VFW Cavanaugh was apart of an award of over $6,000 while serving in the position from 2016 to 2022.
Road Island VFW Cavanaugh was part of her award of more than $6,000 while she served in the position from 2016 to 2022.
VFW Division or Rhode Island/Facebook

“By brazenly claiming the honor, service, and sacrifice of real veterans, this defendant exploited the charity and morals of others for her own dishonorable financial gain,” said U.S. Attorney Zachary A. he said in a statement.

Suspicions of her false identity did not surface until early 2022.

HunterSeven – a veteran’s-based charity – ran a background check on her military service after she applied for funding and discovered she was a social worker at the Providence Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Kavanaugh’s attorney, Kinsley Barrett, had pleaded for a lesser sentence, citing her lack of criminal history and the “heavy price” she had paid through humiliation.

She initially faced a maximum sentence of 24 years before the plea agreement.

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