Tausha Marsh, the 29-year-old woman who faked cancer and collected more than $30,000 from donors, pleaded guilty last week to one charge of felony charitable fraud and one misdemeanor charge of forgery.
Marsh graduated from Western State College in May 2004. Soon after, she told a friend she had bone cancer in her tailbone. In November 2007 she told the same friend the bone cancer had nearly disappeared, but she had developed cervical cancer.
In a May 2008 fund-raising letter, Marsh wrote "I feel like I was running a marathon and as I was about to cross the finish line they extended the race another leg, which has been almost crippling to my body and mind. I have a will to survive and my strength will only carry me so far, which is why I am reaching out for help and support."
Two acquaintances of Marsh, Logan Marlatt and Bill Swift, launched fund-raising efforts in March 2008, including a cross-country bike trip and website. The two raised over $15,000--enough to support Marsh's trip to the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam. Marsh's own cancer support MySpace page is still active.
Later that summer, the Marlatt and Swift began to question Marsh's illness. Marsh's family members also expressed doubts. 9News reports that evidence against Marsh originates from an April 2008 report by Dr. Nola MacDonald in Fort Collins.
The report, provided to police by the Marsh family attorney, says "pap, blood work and CT bone scan" showed "1st stage bone cancer, early 1st stage cervical cancer."
When Gunnison officer Chris Danos faxed MacDonald a copy of that report, the doctor said it had been altered from an Oct. 27, 2005, examination report. MacDonald said she never saw Marsh in 2008 and there was never a mention of cervical cancer.
"It was never diagnosed or considered," reads Danos' report. "Dr. MacDonald identified the altered information in her examination report to be fictitious and a forgery of her authentic examination report."
MacDonald's reports sent to Danos do mention a 2005 bone scan that did not end with a cancer diagnosis.
Danos then called all of Marsh's doctors. In more than 65 pages of reports from doctors and radiologists in Steamboat Springs, Fort Collins, Gunnison, Montrose and California, there is no mention of a cancer diagnosis, according to Danos' report.
The Denver Post reports that Marsh's account still has $22,752, which will be used to reimburse donors. Marsh's sentencing requires regular drug and alcohol tests and a mental-health evaluation. In addition, Marsh must donate an amount equal to the money she used to a cancer charity--approximately $9,000.
"I grew up on cattle ranch on the Colorado/Wyoming border and then went and played college volleyball. I graduated with a photography and graphic design degree and coached as the strengh and conditioning coach for my college team. With all of these wonderful experiences I have developed an ability to work hard and get things done to the best of my abilities."