Federal Agents Raid Home of VA Social Worker Who Claimed To Be a Marine Vet

stolen valor

Federal agents executed a search warrant at the home of a woman accused of pretending to be a decorated Marine Corps veteran with stage 4 cancer. Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.

Federal agents searched the home of a woman accused of defrauding veterans charities by passing herself off as a decorated Marine Corps combat veteran suffering from stage 4 cancer, Coffee or Die Magazine has learned. Investigators have also determined that medical records Sarah Cavanaugh used to convince those charities of a cancer diagnosis were copied from a real patient who was under the care of the Department of Veterans Affairs medical office where she worked.

Authorities searched Cavanaugh’s home in Warwick, Rhode Island, Feb. 3, hours after US Magistrate Judge Lincoln Almond signed a warrant. They seized several phones, laptops, USB devices, and other electronics, as well as a firearm, notebooks, clothing, and other belongings. The contents of the electronics were not listed on public documents as of Friday afternoon, but in the warrant agents requested permission to compel Cavanaugh to unlock any devices that use biometric data, citing suspicions that she may have used the electronics to perpetrate the alleged fraud.

Special Agent Thomas Donnelly with the VA Office of Inspector General told the court he believed there is probable cause to believe Cavanaugh violated federal law, specifically those regarding forging or altering military discharge certificates, fraud, and fraudulent representations about the receipt of military decorations or medals.

In late January, numerous veterans groups began to suspect Cavanaugh had faked a combat-heavy military history for years, pushing the deception far enough to be named the commander of a Rhode Island Veterans of Foreign Wars post. The ruse finally crumbled after a former Marine saw her photo on an Instagram post and started asking questions.

As of last week, Cavanaugh was still employed as a social worker at the Providence VA Medical Center in Rhode Island. A VA spokesman told Coffee or Die the matter had been referred to VA police and the Office of Inspector General for investigation.

Sarah Cavanaugh

Sarah Cavanaugh served as commander of VFW Post 152 until her resignation Jan. 31, 2022. Cavanaugh is accused of a yearslong stolen valor scam, and this month a judge signed off on a federal search warrant in the case. Photo courtesy of Facebook/VFW Department of Rhode Island.

A woman identified as Sarah Bregler poses for a photo posted to Facebook on June 4, 2019. According to the post, she was VFW Post 152 junior vice commander at the time and had just helped present scholarships on behalf of the organization. Photo courtesy of Facebook/VFW Department of Rhode Island.

Investigators determined the records she submitted claiming she had been diagnosed with cancer were “authentic and belonged to an actual veteran patient” at the Providence VA Medical Center. The veteran’s name had been changed to Cavanaugh’s, but the diagnoses and even the “typographical errors” were identical on the real medical file and the records that Cavanaugh submitted to a veteran’s organization when she claimed she had cancer, Donnelly wrote.

As a social worker, Cavanaugh had access to a “variety of medical record databases and is familiar with DD-214s,” the application for the search warrant states. It also revealed that Cavanaugh did not claim veteran status when she applied for the position.

Cavanaugh also served as commander of VFW Post 152 in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, from October 2020 until her resignation Jan. 31 as the allegations against her came to light.

Read Next: Stolen Valor: Scammer’s Claims of Marine Corps Heroism, Cancer Finally Crumble

Hannah Ray Lambert is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die Magazine who previously covered everything from murder trials to high school trap shooting teams. She spent several months getting tear-gassed during the 2020-21 civil unrest in Portland, Oregon. When she’s not working, Hannah enjoys hiking, reading, and talking about authors and books on her podcast Between Lewis and Lovecraft.
More from Coffee or Die Magazine
With the US and India deepening their military ties, the Himalayan mountain chain marks another geopolitical flashpoint with China.
With its iconic folding wings and six machine guns, the Corsair proved exceptionally lethal in World War II and beyond.
Letter bombs mailed to the US Embassy in Madrid and Spanish government offices triggered elevated security at Naval Station Rota.
The Air Force will officially reveal the replacement for the B-2 stealth bomber on Friday, Dec. 2.
When he was released, after 28 months as a prisoner, he thought he would face charges. Instead, he was told he’d won the highest award for valor.
A Connecticut man faces up to 20 years behind bars for trying to join Islamic State group terrorists.
The annual matchup was first played in 1890 and has since become something much bigger — and more important — than just a football game.
A blaze erupted on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, injuring nine sailors before it was extinguished.
The encounter highlighted a trend of increasingly aggressive Chinese military behavior in the region.
Marines and sailors see the landing assault ships Tripoli and America as light carriers.