A woman who told her friends she had cancer and then took money from a fund they established to help her get treatment was sentenced Monday to three years in jail but will not have to serve it until she’s paid the money back.
Sarah Herman, 26, of Columbia, pleaded guilty April 2 to stealing. Andrew Scholz, an assistant prosecutor for Boone County, told the Missourian last August that the maximum sentence Herman could have received was seven years in jail and $5,000 in fines.
“She knows she made a mistake,” Herman’s attorney, Louis Horwitz, told Boone County Circuit Judge Jodie Asel.
Asel sentenced Herman to five years of supervised probation before serving her jail time, with conditions that she pay for all court costs within 60 days, attend counseling sessions and pay at least $100 per month to pay back the stolen $1,800.
In February 2005, Herman, then living in St. Louis, told friends in Columbia that she had been diagnosed with stomach cancer and only had a few months to live. Her friends planned a benefit concert at the Blue Note and solicited businesses and individuals for donations, raising over $1,800 for Herman’s treatment. She told the friends she hoped to receive treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota but could not afford it because she was uninsured and unemployed.
Her friends became suspicious when one of them tried to send Herman flowers at the Mayo Clinic and received a reply that they had no patients under that name. They also noticed that she exhibited no symptoms or lifestyle changes and continued to drink heavily when they went out.
They demanded proof that Herman was actually sick, and when she failed to show any, they contacted the Columbia Police Department about the situation. Herman turned herself in to police on Aug. 17, 2006, and told investigators that she had lied about the whole situation.
“I’d imagine you’ve lost friends over this,” Asel told Herman. “Now you have the conviction and restitution, and now it’s your job to take care of this and right your wrong.”