Woman Faked Being a War Hero to Collect Thousands in Donations, Prosecutors Say
Several veterans spoke to Inside Edition, saying they first met Sarah Jane Cavanaugh at the local Veterans of Foreign Wars in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, where she once served as post commander.
On Memorial Day, the nation honors those who have served in our country's military, often with special honors for those wounded or awarded medals for bravery — which is why it’s disgusting to imagine someone pretending to be a veteran for financial gain.
But that's exactly what 31-year-old Rhode Island resident Sarah Jane Cavanaugh is suspected of doing.
As Cavanaugh told it, she served in the U.S. Marines as a corporal and even earned a Purple Heart for her actions in Afghanistan and a Bronze Star with a “V” for valor. From handing out awards, to acting as master of ceremonies, she certainly seemed like a true war hero.
But there’s one problem — the Marines tell Inside Edition there's no record she ever even served in the Marines, let alone earned all those medals. And prosecutors say in a criminal complaint that she never served in any branch of the military.
Several veterans spoke to Inside Edition, saying they first met Cavanaugh at the local Veterans of Foreign Wars in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, where she once served as post commander.
They say they were shocked to find out the truth.
“She knew and said things that only Marines know, period. It was truly a 'Catch Me If You Can' type scenario, where she fooled everyone in her life for over five years,” said Steven Miozzi, a Marine who served in Afghanistan.
David Ainslie is an actual Purple Heart recipient, earning it for wounds he suffered in Iraq.
“There was a sense of betrayal on a personal level,” Ainslie said.
The veterans say she also told them she developed stage 4 lung cancer from inhaling harmful particles when her car hit a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. That made her eligible to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in charitable donations. Prosecutors say she used some of the donations to pay her mortgage, groceries, and even gym membership.
Army veteran Chelsea Simoni is a registered nurse who works with veterans with cancer. She says she got suspicious and reported her after hearing Cavanaugh was collecting lots of donations.
“I think she’s a terrible person,” said Simoni. “I get extremely upset about it.”
Inside Edition investigative producer Charlie McLravy tried to speak with Cavanaugh. “Veterans we spoke to call you a phony and a fraud, do you have anything to say to that?” McLravy asked.
Cavanaugh did not respond and when asked if she “really earned a Purple Heart,” she covered her face from the camera and drove off.
Cavanaugh has pleaded not guilty to four felony counts, including identity theft.
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