Cancer faker receives prison term
Nevada Appeal News Service
GARDNERVILLE ” A 33-year-old Gardnerville woman who faked cancer for sympathy and attention was sentenced Monday to four years in Nevada State Prison because she bilked thousands of dollars from friends who felt sorry for her.
District Judge Michael Gibbons told Erika Williams she must serve one year before she is eligible for parole. He gave her credit for 96 days in custody.
“This is a really sad day,” Gibbons said. “I don’t like doing this, but I have to protect everyone else.”
She pleaded guilty to one count of obtaining money under false pretenses.
Williams claimed to have a fast-growing, virulent form of terminal cancer that laid waste to her body. In carrying out the ruse, she shaved her head, inserted tubes up her nose, and allowed acquaintances to drive her to phony doctors’ appointments.
Concerned friends responded to Williams with money, rides to radiation treatment, gifts, places to live, frequent flier miles, meals, and what she really craved ” love and attention.
Williams allegedly received nearly $4,000 in money, gifts, rent, and other items.
She was arrested Sept. 11 and remained in custody.
Five women who befriended Williams testified Monday about their families’ sense of betrayal when they discovered the lies.
“You can’t possibly know what it’s like to tell people you have cancer,” said Jane Gray, wearing a purple Relay for Life cancer survivor T-shirt.
She talked about concealing her own Stage 3 breast cancer diagnosis from her children until she and her husband found the words to calm their fears.
“If I could, I would take that time away,” Gray said. “The pain in their eyes nearly killed me. It’s beyond me why anyone would want to watch someone suffer through that.”
As a cancer survivor, Gray said she would attest that it’s more difficult to watch her loved ones’ fear about her prognosis than it was to undergo treatment.
Williams also said Gray’s oncologist was “a quack,” a completely unfounded statement.
“You have to have complete trust in your doctor. Because of her, I was doubting him, wondering if his expertise in the field was enough to save my life,” Gray said.
Dana Dolan said she met Williams as her dental hygienist and also at Bible study.
When Williams started feigning cancer, Dolan said she felt the woman was alone and offered friendship.
She talked her husband into giving Williams an expensive Yorkshire terrier puppy from a litter that they were selling for $700-$900 a piece.
“You had the nerve to name him Elvis ” Everyone Lives Victoriously In Survivorship,” Dolan said to Williams. “You had him spayed and you sold him. My kids just looked at me when they found out. They wanted to know, does he have a good home? My husband was livid.”
The victims asked that Williams be ordered to have mental health treatment.
Heather Alvey who works in an oncology unit called Williams “a predator without remorse who is innately evil.”
“She told a grieving mother she didn’t do enough to save her child. She asked me to speak at her own funeral,” Alvey said. “When I found out (about the lies), I didn’t cry. She wasn’t worth another tear. She is not sorry, she lives without regret. Her excuses are as pathetic as she is.”
Williams asked Gibbons for help.
“I probably won’t get any psychological help in prison,” she said. “I do admit freely what I have done is horrible. I have a huge problem and I’ve had it for the majority of my life. I don’t want to be called a predator. My heart really is good.
“When you are a pathological liar, there’s not much counseling out there. I truly desire to get better, to make amends. I pray for your mercy and help to get the help I need,” she said.
Ted Nagel, who hired Williams as a personal assistant, said he was well aware of the charges against the woman he described as a friend.
Nagel was born with a birth defect and is confined to a wheelchair.
“In my 50 years of life, the only other caregivers as attentive to my needs were my mother and father,” he said.
“She lied about her health, but her heart has a lot of good,” he said.
Gibbons said at first, he wasn’t sure how to treat the crime.
“I’ve never seen anything quite like this. I wasn’t sure it was a crime,” he said. “You didn’t do it for the money.”
Gibbons said his opinion changed as he reviewed the file.
“Predator. That’s one of the worst things you can be called,” he said. “The magnitude of this offense. I had no idea how many people it touched. The gall it took for you to stand up in front of people. You could have received plenty of recognition just by helping.”
Gibbons said he was unsure what psychological help Williams would receive in prison, but “the likelihood of future (fraud) victims is there. I have to do what I can to prevent that.
“You present a risk to other people. Nobody can believe anything you say,” Gibbons said.