Cancer con bad medicine for insurance cheater

By James Quiggle
January 7, 2015

imageBone cancer chewed through Sara Ylen, leaving her six months to live. It all started when a stranger raped her in a store parking lot. The assault gave her a sexually transmitted disease that caused the death-dealing cancer.

Or so Ylen claimed. In fact her story was a remarkable fairytale. She bilked her health insurer out of nearly $100,000 in unneeded hospice care and sent an innocent man to jail for nearly 10 years for the claimed assault.

The Port Huron, Mich.-area woman fooled her friends, community and insurer. People rallied around Ylen after she convinced the local Times Herald in Port Huron to profile her seemingly brave fight. Ylen wanted people to see her as a “victor,” not a “victim,” she said in the series.

Community rallies for Ylen

Her health insurer paid for in-home hospice care for two years. Doctor reports supposedly confirmed the gravity of her cancer. A nurse regularly administered morphine.

People started a fund to send her to community college after being inspired by the newspaper series. Friends cut Ylen’s grass in 100-degree weather, bathed her at her modest home and provided hot meals.

Ylen sat in a wheelchair at a church auction and spaghetti dinner that raised $10,800. She also became a sought-after public speaker about rape.

But her plot soon unspooled. Her close friend Tammy Lisek grew suspicious after going online and finding an X-ray that was similar to an X-ray that Ylen had displayed as proof of her cancer.

“The worst thing that she did was to her own family. How would you be if you thought your mother was dying of cancer and it’s all fiction? How cruel is that?”Medical tests then proved Ylen’s health was fine — she didn’t have cancer. She’d forged documents for the insurer showing she was a patient at University of Michigan cancer center in Ann Arbor and Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Zion, Ill.

Her health insurer and Mercy Hospice cut Ylen off. The doctors she claimed had diagnosed her cancer also denied they’d dealt with her.

Investigators probed Ylen’s computer. They found search terms, images and URLs proving she’d researched her supposed bone cancer.

She appeared fit and mobile at her trial. She pleaded no contest to health-insurance fraud and other charges, and is scheduled for sentencing in February 2014.

Sent innocent man to jail

Ylen’s lies also sent James Grissom to jail for 10 years for a rape that never happened. He was released after Ylen was unmasked. But he couldn’t land a job or permanent place to live. “She's ruined my life,” Grissom said.

The innocent reporter who wrote about her supposed cancer fight feels especially betrayed. His series won an award based on lies.

“She conned a lot of people, including me,” said Mike Connell, who wrote the award-winning series for the Times Herald.

“The worst thing that she did was to her own family. How would you be if you thought your mother was dying of cancer and it’s all fiction? How cruel is that?”

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