A Galena woman was sentenced to two years in prison Monday after pleading guilty to lying about having a terminal illness. While carrying out the hoax, she took money and gifts from friends.
Tawni Fuller, 34, appeared in Delaware County Common Pleas Court Monday afternoon to be sentenced for one charge of telecommunications fraud, a third-degree felony, and two counts of theft, a third-degree and fourth-degree felony.
According to a sentencing memorandum filed by Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Joseph Varvel, Fuller was working as a nurse anesthetist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in spring 2016 when she began telling her friends that she had cancer.
Varvel states that Fuller filed fraudulent Family and Medical Leave Act documents with Wexner and “put on a carefully choreographed performance for her friends in order to effect a theft of wages and other property worth tens of thousands of dollars.”
Varvel states Fuller continued the deception through the summer of 2016, going as far as attending a friend’s husband’s funeral wearing a cancer cap, walking with a cane, and “making a great drama of how frail and short of breath she was on her way to walk up and sit in the front.”
“Later, she told this friend about meeting her deceased husband, ‘on the other side,’ as part of a fabrication about her own nearness of death,” Varvel wrote.
Varvel reported that Fuller told her friends she had a seizure, claimed the cancer had metastasized in her brain, and talked about her experience of receiving radiation treatment.
“Every heart-wrenching word was a lie,” Varvel wrote. “… throughout this cruel charade, Tawni Fuller defrauded the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center of over $40,000 of unearned wages and benefits.”
Varvel said Fuller’s coworkers eventually became suspicious and discovered the ruse in August 2016. The coworkers then reported Fuller to the police.
She was indicted in June and reached a plea agreement with prosecutors in October.
On Monday, Delaware County Common Pleas Judge Everett H. Krueger sentenced Fuller to two years in prison and three years of post-release control.
Krueger ordered her to pay $45,469.68 in restitution to the Ohio State Medical Center and $2,304.66 in restitution to other victims.
Additionally, Fuller is to have no contact with victims, and she must stay off the OSU premises.
Fuller’s defense attorney, Samuel H. Shamansky, filed a sentencing memorandum before the hearing. He said Fuller has accepted responsibility for her actions and is not likely to reoffend.
Shamansky added that Fuller was diagnosed with severe depression in August 2016 and has begun a regimen of counseling and medication.
“Though she recognizes that her mental health struggles do not constitute a defense, (Fuller) respectfully submits that her depression, from which she suffered during the time of her offenses, was contributory to her actions and merits consideration,” Shamansky wrote in the motion. “…Moreover, Ms. Fuller is genuinely remorseful. Having obtained proper mental health treatment, (Fuller) has gained a more complete perspective regarding her wrongfulness of her actions and the harm she has caused.”
Shamansky added that the ruse began as a “desperate attempt for attention,” and Fuller allowed it to grow into a criminal situation when she “accepted gifts, false benefits, and mislead individuals who knew and trusted her.”
Fuller was in the Delaware County Jail Tuesday awaiting transport to prison.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.