Woman pleads guilty to faking cancer to raise cash
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Tuesday, November 2, 2010 8:31PM EDT
A Burlington, Ont. woman who admitted in court Tuesday that she faked terminal cancer and kept thousands of dollars from sympathetic donors will find out her fate in late January.
Ashley Kirilow pleaded guilty to a single count of fraud over $5,000 in a Milton, Ont. court.
The 23-year-old admitted to defrauding Donna Michalowski of nearly $7,400 that had been raised at a fundraiser. Police said the cash raised was supposed to go to a cancer-fighting charity, but Kirilow kept the money.
Her lawyer Brendan Neil suggested his client did feel bad about her actions.
"I think she feels badly for the people she's affected -- all sorts of relationships have disappeared for her," he said. "To say that she feels badly for herself would be trite -- she does, obviously. But I do think it goes farther than that, which is why I do think she feels some remorse."
When entering court on Tuesday, Kirilow covered her face from reporters. Neil said she would not be making any public comment.
Asked what happened to the money that was donated to Kirilow, Neil said the case before the courts was not just about money -- although he estimated she took about $20,000.
"If we look at the dollar figures that have been alleged, there's many ways to make that amount of money without much work at all," he said Tuesday.
Kirilow is due to return to the Milton court on January 27. The judge ordered a pre-sentence report be prepared.
Aside from the fraud count Kirilow pleaded guilty to on Tuesday, she is still facing six separate counts of fraud under $5,000. Those charges will be dealt with in January.
How it started
Kirilow's story became public around the time that she surrendered to police in August, but she did have a lump removed from her breast in 2008.
She told her parents, with whom she had a strained relationship, that the lump was cancerous when it was actually benign, court heard.
Then, things started to snowball.
Kirilow worked as a receptionist at a Sutton Group real estate office in Burlington. Donna Michalowski felt so sorry for Kirilow, she threw a benefit at the Club 54 nightclub in the city. That event raised the $7,400 that forms the basis of the
Kirilow had shaved off her eyebrows and hair, and lost weight, to make herself look like someone undergoing chemotherapy.
Kirilow also told people that her parents were dead, when they are actually both alive.
Many people were outraged to learn that Kirilow had faked having cancer and that she had allegedly set up a fake, Facebook-centred charity called "Change for the Cure."
In the summer of 2009, she told one estranged high school friend she had terminal brain cancer, but Kirilow declined any offers of company when she went for chemotherapy.
Kirilow ultimately admitted her deception this past summer to her father, which led to a police investigation and charges.
"You wouldn't think somebody would go that far for money, so (people) obviously think she needs some help," said Rose Krujewski, the current receptionist at the Sutton office.
Kirilow is currently living in Burlington under the supervision of the John Howard Society, which helps criminals reintegrate.
With a report from CTV Toronto's Austin Delaney and files from The Canadian Press