Caroline Zarate Boyle has been indicted on allegations that she pretended to have cancer, and she's not alone. Indeed, she's the seventh Colorado woman in recent years to have been publicly accused of faking cancer.
Some of the women whose stories have been told by Westword wound up in jail or even prison for padding their bank accounts by defrauding unsuspecting, kind-hearted folks. At least one other case beyond Boyle's is still pending. And one woman was never criminally charged since she didn't profit from her hoax beyond receiving a huge amount of attention.
For good or ill.
Continue to learn about all seven by way of excerpts from our previous coverage, replete with photos and links to our original posts
If Tausha Marsh Did Fake Cancer, Here's Hoping She Invested Her Profits With the Mormon Madoff
THURSDAY, APRIL 9, 2009, AT 11 A.M.
Attention, Denver! Please keep your wallet in your front pocket at all times, shred all documents, and ask your girlfriend for two forms of ID before you let her in your apartment. Because apparently it's Really Brazen But Not All That Clever Scam Week.
First, of course, it was reported that Shawn Merriman, a former Mormon Bishop, has for fifteen years been snaking his friends' money in a Ponzi scheme that would make the horns on Bernie Madoff's head stand on end. With the SEC now out of its decade-long hibernation, Merriman's no-doubt tacky belongings are being seized, but the Post is reporting that his victims won't likely get much money back.
And today, police are accusing a really nice-looking lady of faking cancer — and stealing $15,000-plus from generous donors in the process. If the accusations against Gunnison's Tausha Marsh are true — her Facebook wall-writers sure don't think they are — that's pretty low. You can only hope Marsh invested her loot in an aggressive, surefire investment portfolio of Rembrandts, classic cars and stuffed African game. Oh, and Mitt Romney donations, of course.
Update: In September 2010, Marsh was sentenced to a month-plus in jail and ordered to both repay those she bilked and give them handwritten apology letters.
Ann Crall: Cancer-Faking Lakewood Cop's Wife Pleads Guilty to Fraud, Could Get 15 Years
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 2, 2010, AT 8:20 A.M.
Hot on the heels of the jail sentence leveled against admitted cancer-faking hottie Tausha Marsh, we've learned about a grand jury indictment against Ann Crall, who's said to have collected nearly $60,000 for a bogus illness.
The capper? Many of the donors were Lakewood police officers — and colleagues of Crall's husband.
According to Lakewood Police Department spokesman Steve Davis, Crall's husband, Rich Crall, has been on administrative leave "as a precaution — a procedure we wanted to follow until this whole investigation from the grand jury's perspective ended. Which it has, and they chose not to indict him or charge him."
The natural assumption: Rich was duped like everyone else.
The narrative section of the Ann Crall indictment is explicit about her health, stating that she "has never been diagnosed with cancer or received treatment for cancer." Nonetheless, she told her husband and others during the fall of 2005 that she had been diagnosed, and kept up this apparent ruse for the better part of five years.
Why? "In reality," the indictment says, "Ann Crall did have an addiction to prescription drugs and her need to fund this problem may have been one of the reasons why Ann Crall failed to tell anyone that her claim to have cancer was false."
Update: In June 2014, Crall was sentenced to eight years in prison.
Jennifer Stover Allegedly Bilked Hospice Co-Workers Out of $30,000 by Faking Cancer
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 18, 2012, AT 9:44 A.M.
According to the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office, Jennifer Stover, 35, told a hospice staffer back in 2008 that she had developed a cyst that required "experimental treatment." She allegedly kept this story going over the next several years, using it as an excuse whenever she missed work, which happened frequently. Then, in the spring of 2010, Stover is said to have announced that she had uterine cancer — and again, experimental treatment was required.
When a co-worker offered to solicit funds on her behalf to help cover her care, the DA's office says Stover authorized it. And the folks at the hospice were uncommonly generous, donating paid leave to Stover while she was getting her treatments and even helping pay for car and mortgage payments, utility bills and groceries.
Not that Stover shrugged off the obligation. In fact, she reportedly offered to pay back donated money from a lawsuit settlement. But the DA's office believes this windfall was as phony as the cancer itself.
In the end, Stover is accused of bilking around $30,000 from a total of sixteen people, prompting charges of theft exceeding $20,000 and charitable fraud.
Update: In April 2016, Stover was sentenced to ninety days in jail.
Continue to read about four more accused Colorado cancer fakers, including Caroline Zarate Boyle.
Briana Augustenborg: Will She Face Charges in Bizarre "Alex Jordan" Cancer Hoax?
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 2012, AT 8:58 A.M.
According to the Eagle Valley Enterprise's Pam Boyd, Briana Augustenborg, a 22-year-old Avon resident, told a co-worker who was friendly with the mother of an Eagle Valley High School football player about Alex Jordan, a nine-year-old boy suffering from terminal leukemia. The boy, with whom she claimed to be close, was a big football fan, she said, and followed the EVHS team closely.
Augustenborg's friend offered to speak to the mom and get a signed football for little Alex. The request prompted outreach on the part of the players, who began posting good wishes on Facebook that only accelerated after Augustenborg told Alex's story on a local radio station and shared it with Boyd for a front-page story in the Enterprise.
Little Alex's most fervent desire was to attend the October 26 EVHS football game, Augustenborg said, and with that in mind, players and cheerleaders donned orange apparel in his honor, and the dance team spelled out "Alex" with their pompoms.
The boy didn't see this display, though, being imaginary and all. But Augustenborg explained his absence by announcing via Facebook that he'd died the day before the game.
Shortly thereafter, Augustenborg wrote an obituary for Alex that was published in the Vail Daily. By the way, the included photo reportedly pictures Connor Gerber, a South African cancer sufferer featured on a Kids Cancer Crusade website. He's still alive.
How did the scheme fall apart? Reports say some local residents began getting suspicious after the game. So they shared their concerns with law enforcement reps, who quickly determined that there was no death certificate for an Alex Jordan.
That doesn't mean Augustenborg was immediately fitted with a new set of bracelets and escorted to the hoosgow. As stressed by the Enterprise's Boyd, she never asked for money, insisting that Alex's parents were well fixed; they just wanted to get his story out. For that reason, charges haven't been filed against her at this writing, and none may be.
Update: Augustenborg was never criminally charged for the hoax.
Sandy Nguyen Joins Our List of Alleged Local Cancer Fakers
MONDAY, MARCH 17, 2014, AT 6:37 A.M.
According to the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office, Sandy Nguyen, 28, convinced plenty of people that her six-year-old son had cancer — not just members of the community and parents and children at Rolling Hills Elementary School, but also her family and the boy himself.
The scam allegedly got under way in September 2012, and over the course of the next year, Nguyen raised $25,000.
Over that period of time, the ACSO maintains, Nguyen accessed at least $16,000 worth of that bounty, using it for a family trip to Disneyland, among other things.
On March 7, questions from some of those who'd been so generous but had begun to question whether Sandy's son was actually sick (despite his intermittently shaved head), reached sheriff's office investigators. Within a week, they'd executed a search warrant at Nguyen's home and recovered approximately $23,000 in cash.
The ACSO says Nguyen acknowledged during interviews that her son doesn't have cancer, adding that donations made up part of the cash cache found at her home.
Nguyen was booked on suspicion of theft between $20,000 and $99,000 and criminal impersonation, and more charges could follow.
We feel confident in saying that Nguyen won't be going to Disneyland again anytime soon.
Update: In November 2014, Nguyen was sentenced to five years' probation and ninety nights in jail as part of a work-release regimen.
Meet Nahid "Dr. Venus" Moshrefi, Alleged Defrauding Cancer-Faker
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 7, 2016, AT 8:54 A.M.
At Colorado Springs-based Holistic Healing Health, she's known as Dr. Venus K. Moshrefi, a specialist in natural healing therapies.
But the First Judicial District DA's office refers to her as Nahid Moshrefi, who allegedly bilked an elderly man out of more than $30,000 by pretending to have cancer....
Prosecutors say Moshrefi began dating William Maruca, 79, in 2013 after connecting on the Live Links dating service.
Several months into their relationship, Moshrefi told Maruca she had cancer, the affidavit maintains, and he apparently opened up his wallet to help her address this malady. In July 2015, an employee at FirstBank, where Maruca had an account, flagged checks and transfers to Moshrefi totaling $34,781.
When contacted by authorities, Maruca told them he'd been paying for Moshrefi's doctor visits and treatments, without which she claimed she'd be dead in five to six months.
Maruca reportedly said he knew Moshrefi had cancer because of her visible reactions to pain, adding that their relationship was "secret because it was against her religion to be with a white man when she is unmarried."
Oh, yeah: The affidavit says Moshrefi has been married to someone else for thirteen years.
Update: Nahid Moshrefi's case is still pending at this writing.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Boyle, a 59-year-old postal service employee, allegedly faked cancer "in order to claim over 100 days of sick leave and be allowed to work from home."
In order to provide evidence of her illness, Boyle is accused of having forged several notes from doctors and e-mailing them to supervisors. Unfortunately for her, prosecutors say some of the info in the e-mails was inaccurate. For instance, she's said to have misspelled the name of her supposed physician, whose employees told investigators that she wasn't receiving treatment.
Last month, Boyle was indicted "for using forged writing to defraud the United States." In a statement about the development, acting U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer said, "The U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General is excellent at rooting out fraud and conducting thorough, righteous investigations. Thanks to them, Americans don’t have to tolerate this kind of cheating."
Even though it seems to happen on a pretty regular basis.