A former Ohio State University nurse will spend two years behind bars after she lied about having terminal cancer and schemed her co-workers into giving her money, gifts, and covering her shifts.
Tawni Fuller, who claimed to have lung cancer, received her 24-month sentence on Monday, after she pled guilty last month to telecommunications fraud, theft, and forgery, according to ABC 6.
In addition to two years in prison, Fuller must pay $45,469.68 in restitution to Ohio State Medical Center and $2,304.66 in restitution to the numerous victims, 10TV reported. She is also ordered to stay off of the university’s premises and cannot contact any of the victims.
Fuller, 34, began lying to her co-workers about her medical condition in 2016. Using the made-up illness, she was given cash, and gift cards from her friends and work acquaintances. Some offered to cover her shifts as she “fought” the illness.
She also scammed her employer out of thousands of dollars in sick pay.
The former nurse anesthetist even went so far as to dress up as though she was suffering from cancer. In one shot obtained by ABC, Fuller wore a white beanie on her head, making it seem like she was ill from treatments. The outlet also explained that Fuller would wear band-aids on her neck to make it look like she had a port.
After Fuller reportedly sent text messages towards the end of 2016 detailing her “miraculous” recovery that “boggled” doctors, the truth about her illness began to surface, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
At Monday’s sentencing, more than 20 victims showed up to testify against the woman they believed desperately needed their help. One friend, Carrie Malfatto, explained that she drove Fuller to a massage and pedicure, where she walked slowly with a cane and wore a headscarf, the Dispatch reported.
“I spent hours crying about Tawni’s case and how I couldn’t make it better,” she said, according to the outlet. “This person’s moral compass is broken.”
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Another friend, Tina Dalzell, said that Fuller had exploited Dalzell’s husband’s sudden death in 2016, telling Dalzell she had seen her husband in the afterlife during a near-death experience, according to the Dispatch.
“Only a cruel, narcissistic person could watch me go through such pain and suffering,” Dalzell said, noting that Fuller “hobbled” on a walker during her husband’s wake and sat in the front row. “I am offended and disgusted that she mocked cancer patients.”
In a statement to the courtroom, Delaware County Prosecutor Carol O’Brien expressed her disbelief for the “horrifying” situation.
“Ms. Fuller took advantage of friends, coworkers, her community and employer — people who trusted and cared for her,” O’Brien said, according to 10TV. “If you’ve ever known someone who has fought cancer, it’s horrifying, and it’s hard to believe that someone would take advantage of the community in this way.”
“Ms. Fuller took much more than money,” O’Brien continued. “She stole time and trust; she caused serious and lasting harm to the victims’ faith in humanity.”
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Delaware County Common Pleas Judge Everett Krueger echoed her sentiments, sharing that this was the first time he dealt with such an “evil” case.
“It’s just like nothing I’ve ever heard in all the years I’ve been doing this,” Krueger said, according to the Dispatch. “It’s almost evil what I heard today. It’s just plain evil.”
According to ABC, Fuller told the Ohio Board of Nursing that she lied about having cancer and blamed her actions on her mental illness and depression.
“I know I’ll never be able to pay back the hurt and pain I’ve caused you but I am truly sorry from the bottom of my heart,” Fuller said to the victims after her sentencing, in a clip obtained by the news outlet.
“I was suffering — so stuck and lost that I couldn’t get out,” she added, according to the Dispatch. “I never wanted to hurt any of you.”