Urbana woman in cancer hoax seeks to overturn prison sentence

A prison sentence was warranted for an Urbana woman who admitted to lying about having terminal brain cancer, an Ohio appeals court determined.

Heather Gaus pleaded guilty to a felony theft charge in June 2015, and was ordered to serve one year in prison and pay more than $3,200 in restitution to more than 30 victims.

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The community rallied to raise money for the mother of four after Gaus told people in 2013 that she had brain cancer, according to court records. A youcaring.com page brought in more than $1,000.

Champaign County businesses also made donations, the Springfield News-Sun previously reported.

Gaus appealed her sentence to the Court of Appeals of Ohio, questioning Champaign County Common Pleas Court Judge Nick Selvaggio’s decision to send her to prison rather than give her community control.

Her lawyer argued she didn’t deserve prison time because she had no prior convictions and didn’t use violence, according to the appellate court’s decision.

Non-violent offenders can be sentenced to prison, the appeal court judges wrote, if their crime meets certain criteria.

Selvaggio sentenced Gaus to prison because the ongoing theft was “organized criminal activity,” the decision says. The appellate court stated it couldn’t find anything to go against this.

Her attorney declined to comment.

Her lawyer also argued in her appeal that her children shouldn’t be considered victims of her crime because they weren’t affected economically by the thefts.

The appellate court agreed but the ruling also says the affect on her children is still relevant to her sentence.

Selvaggio also considered Gaus’ lack of remorse when sentencing her to prison, the ruling says.

To her ex-husband, she had previously claimed to have suffered from thyroid problems and multiple sclerosis, the decision says. She reaffirmed those claims at sentencing, according to court records, but said she didn’t have “doctors’ papers” to confirm it.

The decision noted an investigation found Gaus was in good physical condition.

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