Sarah Lucas pleaded guilty Wednesday to fraud over $5,000, identity theft and uttering a forged document.
A Hamilton woman who defrauded the province of more than $200,000 in a cancer-faking scheme has been sentenced to two years behind bars.
Sarah Lucas, 33, pleaded guilty to using forged documents, fraud of more than $5,000 and identity fraud.
“The fact that you would use the tragic disease of cancer as your tool is quite frankly shameful,” Justice George Gage told Lucas in court.
Lucas, who wore a purple winter coat and sported a short, red-haired pixie cut and dark-rimmed glasses, did not address the court except to say “guilty” in a soft-spoken voice when asked how she pleaded.
She waved to her mother and another supporter before exchanging hugs and tears with them and being led into custody.
The “elaborate” cancer-faking scheme started back in 2013 when Lucas lied about being diagnosed with the disease, said Crown attorney Gordon Akilie.
From early 2013 to July 2015, she racked up just over $219,000 in false claims from the Ontario Disability Support Program, which included bogus expenses related to treatment, lodging and transportation, he said.
While Lucas applied for ODSP in 2008 and had her application approved, it wasn’t until 2013 that she requested benefits for “special necessities” relating to a fake cancer diagnosis.
The defence and Crown made a joint sentencing submission seeking two years in prison, which Gage approved.
In addition to time in the penitentiary, Lucas was also slapped with a DNA order and $200,000 restitution order.
“The court should condemn crimes like this,” Akilie said. “To defraud the government of over $200,000 for personal gain is shocking.”
Hamilton police previously said they began their investigation into Lucas in August 2015 after ODSP received an anonymous complaint and the government agency found inconsistencies in claims. Lucas was arrested in November 2015.
One of the charges Lucas pleaded guilty to was impersonating Toronto doctor Fred Gentili.
“This doctor never treated Ms. Lucas as a patient,” Akilie said.
A secretary in Dr. Gentili’s office at Toronto Western Hospital — where he is a neurosurgeon specializing in neuro-oncology — previously told the Spectator the physician only became aware of the investigation after being contacted by an ODSP caseworker in August.
Lucas forged doctor’s notes for treatments between March 1, 2013 and July 28, 2015, Akilie said.
She also impersonated hotel manager Chanaka Gamaethighe, whose name was misspelled in court documents, on forged hotel receipts.
Lucas submitted letters to ODSP that were supposedly from the Eaton Chelsea Hotel, where Gamaethighe was revenue manager from 2012 to 2014. She claimed she required accommodation at the hotel during her treatment at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.
Gamaethighe previously told the Spectator he knew nothing about potentially being impersonated, but did say area hospitals had his name for reservation and billing purposes.
Defence counsel Cole Raftery said his client, who had no criminal history, came before the court with “trepidation.”
Lucas married in August 2012 but the relationship dissolved after news about the fraud came to light, Raftery said.
Gage noted Lucas lives with depression.
“She has subsequently been getting mental help,” Raftery told court.
Police previously said friends and family were fooled by Lucas’ cancer claims.
“This is a crime that was carried out with some substantial degree of sophistication and probably with the assistance of one or more others,” Gage told the court.
Outside of court, Raftery said he does not think Lucas was the “mastermind” behind the scheme.
“She’s more to be pitied than reviled,” he said.