SANDUSKY, Mich. - A Michigan woman who gained deep sympathy and financial help in her community by claiming to have cancer was ordered to stand trial Friday on fraud and five other charges.
After hearing 10 witnesses over two days, a Sanilac County judge said prosecutors revealed enough evidence against Sara Ylen, who even received hospice care worth $100,000 over a two-year period.
The 38-year-old Lexington woman is charged with false pretenses, fraud and using a computer to commit a crime. State police say she created documents to show she was a patient at University of Michigan cancer center in Ann Arbor and Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Zion, Ill. Both hospitals say she never was treated there.
When investigators went to her home to seize computers in 2012, Ylen subsequently arrived in the passenger seat of a car. She had a scarf around her head and a device supporting her back while a friend was retrieving a wheelchair from the rear of the vehicle, Det. Sgt. Brian Ferguson testified.
"This is basically a broad scheme," assistant prosecutor Brenda Sanford told a judge. "She alleged she had cancer. All the documents she provided were false."
Judge Gregory Ross later agreed as he listed the elements of the alleged crimes.
"She intended to defraud," Ross said.
Ylen, who showed no signs of health problems while in court, didn't present a health professional to rebut the charges. She declined to comment as she left the courthouse, although her attorney, David Heyboer, was hostile.
"Get out of my face," he said as he stepped on an elevator.
It's not clear what Ylen's motive would have been. Money raised through community fundraisers helped her with rent and other expenses, but there's no evidence of extravagant living.
Tammy Lisek testified that she was a close friend for about 13 years, sometimes seeing Ylen every day, until she became suspicious in 2010. She said he went online and found an X-ray that was similar to an X-ray that Ylen had displayed as proof of her multiple myeloma, known as cancer in bone marrow.
Coincidentally, Lisek's father was being treated at Cancer Treatment Centers in Illinois at the same Ylen supposedly was seeing doctors there.
She said Ylen agreed to let Lisek accompany her to an appointment but then changed her mind. "I don't know if they'll let you in the room," Lisek quoted her friend as saying.
This case is not the first time Ylen's credibility has been challenged. In a separate case in a neighboring county, she is awaiting trial on a charge of making a false report of rape against two men.
She's been in the public eye for more than a decade in the Port Huron area, 60 miles northeast of Detroit. Ylen agreed to be interviewed and have her name published in an award-winning series in the Port Huron Times Herald after a man was convicted of raping her in a very busy parking lot during daylight in 2001.
But that man, James Grissom, was released from prison last year after nearly 10 years. New evidence emerged that Ylen had made false rape allegations in California in 2001, information that Grissom's attorney could have used at trial if it had been available.
A psychologist, Daniel Kachman, evaluated Ylen as part of her divorce case and found she sometimes takes on "the role of martyr."