SANDUSKY, Mich. (AP) — A woman who for years claimed she had end-stage cancer pleaded no contest Monday to fraud in a scheme that had brought her widespread sympathy and financial support in small eastern Michigan communities.
Sara Ylen, wearing handcuffs and an orange jail suit, answered a series of yes-or-no-questions during a brief appearance in Sanilac County court, 90 miles northeast of Detroit. It's not the only criminal case linked to her shattered credibility: She is due in a different court Friday to be sentenced for making a false report of rape against two men in 2012.
Ylen, 38, of Lexington claimed she developed cervical cancer from a sexual assault in 2001 and was regularly treated at Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Zion, Ill. But Mercy Hospice cut her off in 2011 when tests showed her life wasn't in peril. By then, her insurer had paid about $100,000 for the service. The cancer hospital also said it had no record of her as a patient.
Meanwhile, people in small communities in Michigan's Thumb region who didn't know about the doubts by medical professionals continued to support Ylen. In 2012, she was in a wheelchair at a Croswell Wesleyan Church auction and spaghetti dinner that raised $10,800 for everyday bills.
"They were so stunned they were taken in," prosecutor Brenda Sanford said in an interview outside court, referring to Ylen's allies. "She loved the spotlight, the attention."
Ylen pleaded no contest to fraud through false pretenses as well as fraud through false statements. A no-contest plea means a defendant concedes prosecutors have enough evidence to convict but it's not an admission of guilt. Nonetheless, it's treated the same as a regular conviction for sentencing purposes. The maximum punishment is 10 years in prison, although she'll get much less when she returns to court on Feb. 19.
Ylen declined to comment as she waited for an elevator with her attorney, David Heyboer, and a sheriff's deputy.