It turns out Lori Stilley's "miracle" recovery from bladder cancer was as bogus as her terminal illness itself, police say.
By claiming she was dying from bladder cancer, the 40-year-old Delran woman accepted 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 lengthy 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 2011, Stilley updated her cancer status to stage IV.
When Stilley told relatives and friends she did not have health insurance, well-wishers leapt to the rescue, authorities say, fundraising for her treatment and medical bills.
A benefit banquet organized in July 2011 raised more than $8,400 for her; another fundraiser and cash raffle netted Stilley an additional $1,000.
She allegedly kept up the charade, even authoring an e-book that discussed her daily struggle to cope with cancer. In October, Stilley posted it for sale on her personal website and generated more than $3,000 in proceeds at $14.99 apiece.
When said she wanted to marry her boyfriend before she died, friends and family planned a wedding within nine days, negotiating down the cost of the wedding hall to $500, the cost of which they also covered.
One of Stilley's friends even made a meal calendar that was posted on Stilley's website, whereby people signed up to prepare and deliver dinners for her. Stilley also received donations of gift cards totaling more than $1,600.
Family and friends finally questioned Stilley in November 2011, when Stilley said she was cancelling plans for hospice care because she was feeling better and "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," he said. "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.