Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

No jail for woman who faked cancer

Under psychiatric care after pocketing donations

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MILTON, Ont. -- An Ontario woman who shaved her head and eyebrows to convince people she had cancer and then pocketed the donations they made to her bogus charity will not go to jail for the scam.

Ashley Kirilow, 23, said little in court as she was given a 15-month conditional sentence with 10 months to be served under house arrest and five months under curfew.

Kirilow also must complete 100 hours of community service but is not allowed to volunteer for any charity.

In handing down his sentence on Thursday, the judge also ordered her to attend counselling and take medication for mental-health conditions.

The young woman is currently living in a psychiatric ward at Joseph Brant Hospital in her hometown of Burlington, Ont., and is under the care of a psychiatrist who has diagnosed her with anxiety, depression and a personality disorder.

The allegations against Kirilow ignited a palpable rage when they surfaced last summer. Searing comments were splashed across the Facebook page set up for Kirilow's fake charity, Change for a Cure, with some people even writing they hoped she got cancer.

Both the Crown and the defence took more than an hour to argue reasons behind their recommendation for no jail time, citing Kirilow's mental state and her increasing need to seek attention after a troubled upbringing where she was shuffled between the homes of her separated parents and her grandparents for years.

Despite the public outcry that vilified Kirilow, Justice Fred Forsythe told the court he had to balance the public's need for justice with Kirilow's mitigating factors.

The sentence is "not an instrument for the acting of public vengeance and retribution," Forsythe told the court.

The emphasis is on "rehabilitation of the offender, which obviously benefits both the offender and society," he added.

He also took into account that she is at a low-risk of reoffending and is currently under treatment.

Kirilow -- dressed in a black sweater and blue jeans -- had no supporters in the courtroom on Thursday. She spoke in a barely audible voice when asked questions and didn't turn around to look at the crowd of reporters gathered in the courtroom.

She had become estranged from her family and lawyers argued Kirilow pulled off the whole stunt as a cry for attention, which later snowballed out of control.

"I would have been bowled over if they appeared today," her lawyer, Brendan Neil, said of Kirilow's family.

Kirilow had pleaded guilty to one count of fraud over $5,000 in November and pleaded guilty to one count of fraud under $5,000 on Thursday. Five other counts of fraud under $5,000 were withdrawn because they covered the same fundraising events as the other two counts.

She was not ordered to pay back the money because she is living in the psychiatric ward and doesn't have a job.

Neil said none of Kirilow's victims wanted to provide a victim impact statement, and Neil said Kirilow declined to make a statement because she suffers from anxiety.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 8, 2011 A19

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