Chula Vista Woman Admits Faking Cancer While Attempting to Avoid Prison for Fraud Conviction
SAN DIEGO – Ashleigh Lynn Chavez pleaded guilty in federal court today to Obstruction of Justice, admitting that she repeatedly forged doctor’s notes falsely indicating she had been diagnosed with cancer, and that she caused these notes to be submitted to the court through her attorneys.
According to publicly available court documents, Chavez, 37, pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in November 2019, admitting that she embezzled more than $160,000 from a former employer. She was permitted to remain out of custody pending sentencing. She faced a likely prison term. On the eve of her sentencing, Chavez created a doctor’s note that falsely stated a biopsy had revealed “cancerous cells” in her uterus and forged the signature of her doctor on this letter. Chavez then provided the note to her attorney who, believing it to be genuine, submitted it to the court and to the assigned prosecutor in a bid for leniency.
On March 31, 2021, Chavez was sentenced to serve 12 months and 1 day in federal prison. As a direct result of the forged doctor’s note she had caused her attorney to submit, she was permitted to remain out of custody for an additional three months so that she could receive medical treatment.
As detailed in her plea agreement, after her sentencing hearing Chavez hired a new attorney whom she provided with additional forged letters from two different San Diego-area physicians. The new attorney, also believing the letters to be genuine, submitted them to the assigned prosecutor and to the court.
One forged letter, purporting to be from an oncologist, said: “Ashleigh has limitations due to uterine cancer and future need for radiation.” Other letters indicated that she was undergoing a surgical procedure, that she had been admitted to the hospital, and that her “condition has progressed… to Stage II; the cancer has spread to the cervix.” One letter warned that “she cannot be exposed to COVID-19” because of her fragile state. In August 2021, Chavez was purportedly scheduled to begin chemotherapy. Her attorney contacted the assigned prosecutor and indicated that she was too ill to work, and that as a result she needed to be relieved of monthly restitution obligations to the victim in her previous case.
By August 2021, the notes forged by Chavez were overtly recommending that the court reconsider her prison sentence and instead permit her to serve time on home confinement. In one forged note attributed to a San Diego-area oncologist, Chavez wrote that “(a) year in prison could be a death sentence for my patient… I highly recommend the chance to allow home confinement or anything else that you deem appropriate rather than a year in prison.” Two weeks later, she forged a note from the same oncologist stating that “Ashleigh’s cancer, it has in fact metastasized affecting the lymph nodes… I recommend a different approach to her sentencing.”
In fact, Chavez was never diagnosed with or treated for cancer by either doctor. When contacted by government representatives, both doctors denied writing any of the letters attributed to them. While Chavez had been a patient of one, the second doctor had never heard of her and had no idea how or why his identity had been stolen and his signature repeatedly forged by Chavez.
“This defendant, already convicted of one fraud, worked for months to commit additional frauds on the federal court,” said U.S. Attorney Grossman. “While her dishonesty delayed payment of her debt to society, it will cost her still more time in prison.” Grossman thanked the prosecution team and the FBI for their excellent work on this case.
“The defendant went to great lengths to avoid reporting to prison for her prior fraud conviction by faking doctor’s notes claiming she had cancer – an insult to cancer patients everywhere,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Stacey Moy. “May today’s guilty plea finally put an end to this odyssey to obstruct justice which, in the end, will only add additional time to her sentence.”
Chavez faces up to 10 additional years in federal prison and is scheduled to be sentenced on June 27, 2022, by U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Battaglia.
DEFENDANT Case No. 22-CR-0318-AJB
ASHLEIGH LYNN CHAVEZ Age 37 Chula Vista, CA
aka “Ashleigh Lynn Coulson”
aka “Ashleigh Chavez Coulson”
aka “Carlos Garcia”
SUMMARY OF CHARGES
Obstruction of Justice – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 1503
Maximum penalty: Ten years in custody and a $250,000 fine.
Federal Bureau of Investigation