By Crystal Cranmore, Todd Quinones
DELRAN, N.J. (CBS) – A Burlington County woman who allegedly lied about having cancer was arrested Wednesday after authorities say she accepted money in a cancer fundraising scheme.
The Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office said in February 2011, 40-year-old Lori Stilley of Delran, fooled her friends and family into thinking she had Stage 3 bladder cancer, allegedly posting she would be undergoing radiation and chemotherapy treatment on Facebook and her personal website. A few months later in April, authorities say Stilley indicated the cancer had upgraded to Stage 4.
Using a wheelchair was just one way Lisa DiGiovanni says her sister, Stilley deceived everyone, including her own two young children.
“It keeps me awake almost every night to think that my niece and nephew have thought that their mother was going to leave them,” DiGiovanni said.
After allegedly claiming to friends and family she did not have health insurance, several of her friends raised close to $10,000, holding a t-shirt sale and a couple of fundraisers in the months that followed.
Authorities also say Stilley wrote an e-book that discussed her daily struggle to cope with cancer. The book sold for $14.99 last October and generated more than $3,000 in proceeds.
When Stilley allegedly said she wanted to marry her boyfriend before she died, less than two weeks later, investigators say her friends and family banded together to pay for her wedding, negotiating the cost of the wedding hall down to $500.
Neighbors were stunned, including one man who didn’t want to be identified who said he pitched in about $60 to help.
“A lot of people used to deliver food over to her house every night. I mean these are people that are middle class that couldn’t afford it,” the neighbor said.
Friends and family became suspicious of Stilley in November 2011 when they expected her to enter hospice care, but instead learned through Facebook that she was suddenly feeling better and she believed that a miracle was coming, authorities said.
“The day before she was supposed to go on hospice, she came to my daughter’s playoff field hockey game, and it was very dramatic, in a wheelchair, and she was supposed to be going on hospice the next day. I’m staring at her saying, ‘She just doesn’t look sick.’”
DiGiovanni says conversations with her sister’s personal doctor, along with a sudden postponement of the hospice care led her to contact police in November of last year.
DiGiovanni says her sister is sick mentally and needs help.
Stilley is charged with third degree Theft by Deception. Stilley is out on $25,000 bail. It’s not clear what her husband may have known.