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Fake Marine takes plea deal after fraudulently collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars

Sarah Cavanaugh served as commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 152. (VFW Department of Rhode Island Facebook page.)

Update: Sarah Jane Cavanaugh had agreed to plead guilty and signed an agreement in U.S. District Court in Providence under which she will admit to wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, forgery, and fraudulent use of medals, U.S. Attorney Zachary Cunha said in a statement.

She faces more than 20 years in prison, but prosecutors will recommend lower sentencing due to her agreement.

She has also agreed to pay more than $82,000 in restitution.

Rick Sobey, Boston Herald

Mar. 15—A Rhode Island woman has been charged with falsifying her military service and fraudulently collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in charitable contributions that were earmarked for wounded and other veterans.

Sarah Jane Cavanaugh, 31, of Warwick, R.I., is accused of posing as a wounded U.S. Marine Corps veteran and the recipient of a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

Cavanaugh, who allegedly collected more than $200,000 in veteran benefits and charitable contributions, was arrested Monday by federal agents and made her initial appearance in Providence federal court.

She was charged with using forged or counterfeited military discharge certificates, wire fraud, fraudulently holding herself out to be a medal recipient with intent to obtain money, property or other tangible benefit, and aggravated identity theft.

The feds allege that Cavanaugh used the personal identifying information of an actual Marine and falsely claimed that she served from 2009 to 2016; was honorably discharged; achieved the rank of corporal; and was wounded in action in Iraq/ Afghanistan.

Cavanaugh is accused of using an official VA email account — which was issued to her as a VA employee — to purchase and later display on a Marine uniform a Purple Heart and Bronze Star. She had not been awarded either award.

She also allegedly created and submitted falsified military discharge documents, medical diagnosis and medical bills to “HunterSeven,” an organization that provides monetary aid to veterans in need. She requested financial assistance and falsely claimed that she was being treated for cancer from exposure to burn pits in Iraq/ Afghanistan, and inhaling particulate matter in the aftermath of an improvised explosive device.

Posing as a wounded combat veteran, Cavanaugh is accused of collecting $207,000 from the Wounded Warrior organization to pay for groceries and physical therapy sessions.

She also contacted “Code of Support” and collected $18,472 in financial assistance for mortgage payments, repairs to her home furnace, a gym membership and for other unspecified bills.

The feds said Cavanaugh collected about $4,700 from an internet-based fundraising website while posing as a combat veteran diagnosed with cancer related to her military service.

Claiming to be a Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient, Cavanaugh collected about $16,000 from a charity that provides therapy for veterans through art programs.

Cavanaugh appeared before U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Lincoln Almond on Monday. She was released on $50,000 unsecured bond.


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