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From the Bad Ideas File: Lying About Having Cancer

Liar For so many reasons, it is a terrible idea to falsely claim that you have cancer in an effort to gain a benefit or avoid trouble. I first saw this a few years ago when Howard P. Richman, a biotech executive, told a federal judge that he could not defend the case filed against him by the SEC because he was gravely ill from colon cancer. In support of this story, Richman:

  • submitted a letter to the court from a [phony] doctor stating his treatment included surgery and chemotherapy;
  • told the court later through his attorneys that the cancer had spread; and
  • finally told the court in July 2007 that the cancer had worsened and that he now had an 8 percent to 15 percent chance of survival. His Stage III colon-rectal cancer, he said, had “spread to his stomach and invaded his abdominal cavity.”

Well, it turned out that Richman never had cancer, and the whole story was a sham. Last year, Richman admitted he had lied about the cancer and pleaded guilty to a count of obstruction of justice. In October 2009, Richman was sentenced to 3 years in prison. (On the bright side, I guess, he is cancer-free).

To my knowledge, Richman had been alone in the "People Pretending to Have Cancer" category, but he may now have company.  The Legal Profession Blog notes that last month, the Illinois Bar charged attorney Ellen Lang with "falsely claim[ing] to be suffering from cancer in order to induce a client to purchase a residence for her benefit":

In or prior to 2006, L...allowed Respondent to reside in a home [she] owned, at 1530 Tower Road in Winnetka (the "Winnetka house") under the terms that Respondent would pay rent and other expenses normally paid by tenants and L. would pay the expenses normally paid by landlords. At the time Respondent resided at the Winnetka house, L. had moved out of state and was residing in La Jolla, California.

In or about 2006, Respondent told L. that she was suffering from cancer and needed a place to live near her cancer treatment center in Evanston.

Respondent's statements to L. that she was suffering from cancer were false, and Respondent knew they were false because she never had cancer. Respondent's statements to L. that she was suffering from cancer were made for the purpose of inducing L. to purchase a house in Evanston to be used for Respondent's benefit.

Beyond the legal issues involved in lying about having cancer, I have to think that there may be some even more serious karmic ramifications.

Posted by Bruce Carton on September 27, 2010 at 01:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)


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