Delran woman charged with phony cancer appeals for aid

Lori E. Stilley, of Delran, claimed she was dying of cancer. Supporters raised more than $12,000 for expenses and prepared her meals.
Lori E. Stilley, of Delran, claimed she was dying of cancer. Supporters raised more than $12,000 for expenses and prepared her meals.
Posted: September 28, 2012

Lori E. Stilley told friends last year that she had Stage IV bladder cancer and was preparing to die.

Supporters raised more than $12,000 for expenses and prepared her meals. Her "Team Lori Rocks" page on Facebook attracted more than 300 friends.

Family members and others helped cover the cost for her to get married. It was the least they could do.

But no one accompanied the Delran resident to see a doctor, an acquaintance now recalls. Or viewed lab reports or medical bills around her home.

In November, when Stilley posted on her Facebook page that there had been a "miracle" and hospice care was no longer imminent, her well-wishers grew suspicious.

On Wednesday, Stilley, a 40-year-old mother of two, was charged with theft by deception in a phony cancer fund-raising scam.

Stilley was never treated or even diagnosed with cancer, the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office and Delran police said.

"Finding out it wasn't true was so shocking. It actually felt like it was part of a Lifetime movie," said Michele Fagerstrom, 43, a former Delran resident who lives in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Fagerstrom, who graduated from Delran High four years ahead of Stilley, said she knew Stilley's sister and sympathized with Stilley's struggle. Fagerstrom attended two fund-raisers and bought T-shirts whose proceeds were to go to toward Stilley's bills.

"Who would do that? Just the repercussion of such a huge lie," Fagerstrom said Wednesday. "It's overwhelming to even think that somebody would be creative enough to come up with that."

Stilley surrendered to Delran police, accompanied by an attorney. She was released after posting $25,000 bail. Her husband has not been charged, a spokesman for the Prosecutor's Office said.

A call by The Inquirer to the couple's home was not returned. A family member said Stilley had been a social worker.

In February 2011, authorities said, Stilley told those close to her that she had stage III cancer, and would undergo radiation treatments and chemotherapy. Two months later, she reported that her condition had worsened.

Friends held a banquet in July 2011 that raised more than $8,400 and organized the T-shirt sale. Another event brought in $1,000.

On Stilley's website, a friend posted a calendar where people could sign up to deliver her home-cooked meals, authorities said.

When Stilley indicated that she wanted to marry her boyfriend, William, before she died, friends and family planned the wedding in nine days at the Moorestown Community House. The venue lowered its price to $500, and her supporters picked up the tab.

Stilley chronicled her struggle in what became a 306-page e-book, I'Mpossible - How a Facebook Group Loved Me Through Cancer, that she sold for $14.99 on her website, authorities said. It grossed more than $3,000.

"I pray I will be around to look at this book 20 years from now with my children," she wrote. "If not, I have a sense of peace knowing they have their Mommy's story to keep for the rest of their lives. I'm still waiting on that miracle."


Contact Darran Simon at 856-779-3829 or at dsimon@phillynews.com, or reach on Twitter @darransimon.

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