A Chula Vista woman pleaded guilty Friday in federal court for repeatedly foraging a doctor’s note falsely indicating a cancer diagnosis to avoid a prison sentence for a fraud conviction. 

In November 2019, 37-year-old Ashleigh Lynn Chavez pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge admitting that she embezzled more than $160,000 from a former employer, according to court documents. Just before her sentencing, Chavez made a doctor’s note that falsely claimed a biopsy had revealed “cancerous cells” in her uterus and forged the signature of her doctor on this letter.  

The note was provided to Chavez’s attorney, who submitted it to court and the assigned prosecutor in a bid for leniency believing it was genuine.

On March 31, 2021, Chavez was sentenced to serve 12 months and 1 day in federal prison, but as a result of the forged doctor’s note submitted by her attorney, she was permitted to remain out of custody for an additional three months for medical treatment. 

According to her plea agreement, Chavez hired a new attorney after the sentencing and provided them with additional forged letters from two different San Diego-area physicians. 

One of the foraged letters claimed to be from an oncologist read “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.”  

Another letter warned that “she cannot be exposed to COVID-19” because of her fragile state.

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.”

The letters were submitted to the assigned prosecutor and to the court. 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 in home confinement. 

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Government representatives contacted both doctors, who denied writing the letters attributed to them. Chavez was a patient of one, but the second doctor had no connections to her and had no idea how or why his identity and signature were repeatedly forged by Chavez.  

 “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 for sentencing on June 27, by U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Battaglia.

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