Police: NJ woman faked cancer for profit

DELRAN, N.J. - September 26, 2012

Lori E. Stilley, 40, of Suburban Boulevard in Delran, is charged with Theft by Deception.

The prosecutor's office said it all began in February, 2011, when Stilley allegedly told friends and family that she had been diagnosed with Stage III bladder cancer and had to undergo radiation and chemotherapy.

Stilley posted this information on Facebook and her personal website, police said. Then, in April 2011, investigators say Stilley indicated the cancer had become Stage IV, which is terminal.

"It was sad just at first," said the suspect's sister Lisa DiGiovanni. "I really think that she's sick and she's needs help. I can't imagine anybody in their right mind doing that."

Lisa, and her husband Mike, spent agonizing months trying to help Stilley.

"My wife would wake up in middle of the night crying and banging the bed saying, 'How can God do this to her, and the kids' and I would say 'There's answers and hope somewhere," said Mike DiGiovanni.

Investigators say Stilley told family and friends that she did not have health insurance, so several fundraisers were held, including a t-shirt sale, a banquet and a cash raffle. Those events netted $9,400.

In addition, Stilley published an e-book about her struggle with cancer, police said, which generated another $3,000 in proceeds.

Then, when Stilley allegedly said she wanted to marry her boyfriend before she died, her friends and family planned the wedding and the marriage took place nine days later.

Police say friends and family members negotiated the cost of the wedding hall down to $500 and covered the cost themselves.

Stilley also received donations of gift cards totaling more than $1,600, police said.

In all, investigators say, Stilley's alleged scam netted more than $10,000 dollars.

The scheme started to unravel in November, 2011, when Stilley was preparing to receive what supporters thought was necessary hospice care. In a Facebook message, Stilley allegedly said she was "feeling better" and believed that "a miracle was coming."

Her sister put it all together and called police, which added to the turmoil within the family.

"My parents tried to make me feel like I had betrayed my sister and betrayed them, and that absolutely was not it at all. I wanted my niece and nephew and I wanted my sister to get help," said Lisa.

Stilley's family says they don't know if her husband knew about the scam but the woman's two young children definitely thought they were going to lose their mother.

Stilley surrendered on Wednesday morning and was released on $25,000 bail.

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