SANDUSKY, Mich. — A judge sentenced a Michigan woman to a year behind bars Wednesday in an "almost mind-boggling" scam that tricked an insurance company and swindled big-hearted people in small communities who believed she was dying of cancer.
Authorities said it was all an extraordinary lie: No doctor has ever stepped forward to even suggest that Sara Ylen had cancer.
Ylen, 38, already is serving a minimum five-year prison sentence in another case of deceit, and the one-year punishment for fraud will run at the same time.
Ylen claimed she developed cervical cancer from a sexual assault in 2001 and was regularly treated at Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Zion, Ill. The Michigan-based Mercy Hospice cut her off in 2011 after two years when tests showed her life wasn't in peril. The cancer hospital said it had no record of her as a patient.
The Lexington resident accepted thousands of dollars from supporters who for years regularly read of her plight in the Port Huron Times Herald. She repeatedly forged medical records, including documents that bore the letterhead of cancer specialists at the University of Michigan.
In January, Ylen pleaded no contest to fraud through false pretenses and false statements. A no-contest plea in Michigan is treated like a regular conviction for the purpose of a sentence.
"All of these fraudulent acts that you perpetrated on so many people, and the extent that you went to perpetrate them, is almost mind-boggling," Sanilac County Circuit Judge Donald Teeple said. "You took advantage of the goodwill and generosity of people who were more than willing to assist you, all based on lies."
Ylen was silent in court, about 90 miles northeast of Detroit, and has never given a public explanation. Wearing prison shackles and an oversized coat, she also declined to comment as officers escorted her to a van for a return trip to prison, where she is serving a sentence for falsely accusing two men of rape.
Outside court, defense attorney David Heyboer didn't shed much light on her behalf.
Prosecutor Brenda Sanford acknowledged that some people might consider the sentence light. She said the judge simply followed Michigan law.
"There was nothing he could do to give her additional time," Sanford said.
Ylen owes about $122,000 to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, mostly for the hospice care. A 2012 event at Croswell Wesleyan Church raised $10,800 for her bills, but the church has not asked for repayment. It was just a fraction of the money given by people over the years.