Lori Stilley's "miracle" recovery from bladder cancer was bogus—just like the cancer itself, police say.
Claiming she was dying from bladder cancer, the 40-year-old Delran woman received meals, money, gifts, even a wedding from family and friends who organized charitable efforts on her behalf.
Turns out, Stilley didn't have cancer at all—and now, she could face serious jail time.
Stilley, of Suburban Boulevard in Delran, was charged with third-degree theft by deception, according to Burlington County Prosecutor Robert D. Bernardi and Delran Police Chief Alfonso A. Parente, Jr. She surrendered today with counsel at the Delran Police Department and was released after posting $25,000 bail.
After a long investigation, authorities found out Stilley told close friends and family she had been diagnosed with stage III bladder cancer and would undergo radiation and chemotherapy. Stilley posted this information on Facebook and a personal website she created. In April of last year, Stilley updated her cancer status to stage IV.
She told relatives and friends she did not have health insurance, well-wishers leapt to the rescue, authorities say. Several started fundraising for her treatment and medical bills.
A sale and fundraising banquet organized in July 2011 raised more than $8,400. Another fundraiser and cash raffle netted an additional $1,000.
Stilley allegedly kept up the charade, even authoring an e-book that discussed her daily struggle to cope with cancer. In October, she posted it for sale on her personal website for $14.99 and generated more than $3,000 in proceeds.
Stilley then said she wanted to marry her boyfriend before she died. Friends and family planned a wedding and the marriage took place nine days later. The cost of the wedding hall was negotiated down to $500 and friends and family covered the cost themselves.
A friend of Stilley also made a meal calendar that was posted on Stilley's website. People signed up to make and drop off dinners to the woman. Stilley also received donations of gift cards totaling more than $1,600.
Family and friends finally questioned Stilley in November of last year when Stilley said plans for hospice care were cancelled because she was feeling better and she "believed a miracle was coming."
Law enforcement officials discovered Stilley had never been treated for or even diagnosed with cancer.
“Cancer causes so much pain and hardship for those who are suffering through it, as well as for family members and friends,” Bernardi said. “For this defendant to represent that she was dying from this terrible disease for the sake of personal gain and sympathy goes way beyond simply being a criminal offense; it was extremely cruel to those who were concerned and worked hard to lend assistance.”
The case will be presented to a Burlington County Grand Jury for indictment. The investigation was conducted by detectives from the Delran Township Police Department and the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office Financial Crimes Unit.