The tale that Caroline Boyle started spinning in 2015 was grim. She told colleagues that cancer attacked her white blood cells and ravaged her immune system, leaving Doyle too weak to come into work at the U.S. Postal Service office in Aurora, Colorado.
Boyle needed to rest and work from home, according to notes scribbled by her doctor.
But there was one problem that later confirmed Boyle, 60, had constructed an elaborate ruse. The doctor's name was misspelled in a note presumably detailing Boyle's non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and the signature was botched.
Boyle was convicted of fraud Tuesday, brought down by USPS investigators. A district judge handed down a sentence of five years of probation that includes six months of home confinement with an electronic monitor, along with a $10,000 fine and restitution of exactly $20,798.38, acting U.S. Attorney for Colorado Bob Troyer said in a statement.
That restitution figure represents "some or most" of the amount Boyle claimed for administrative sick leave she was wrongly paid, spokesman for Colorado Attorney General's office Jeff Dorschner told The Washington Post.
A Justice Department official familiar with the case said one aspect of Boyle's sentencing from U.S. District Judge Raymond Moore was unique. Moore ordered her to serve 652 hours of community service at a cancer treatment center, cancer research center or hospice - which is precisely how many hours of falsified sick leave she took.
Moore is fond of meting out symbolic and poetic justice, the official said, adding that Boyle confessed to USPS investigators after confronted with proof, including the forged doctor's notes, and an executed search warrant that yielded no proof she was suffering from cancer.
Boyle has worked for USPS since 1991, according to court filings. Her plan was to continue defrauding the government with sick leave until her retirement in April, which she planned to celebrate with a Hawaiian cruise, Dorschner said.
Boyle's exhausted sick leave and other issues drew suspicion, and inquiries were launched in February. She pleaded guilty to charges on April 28.
The wrongdoing goes even deeper, Dorschner said.
A subordinate whom Boyle falsely accused of faking cancer testified against her, he said, adding that the employee really did have cancer. Boyle denied her the same kind of accommodations, like working from home and extended sick leave, that Boyle herself fraudulently used. That incident took place before Boyle began her scheme.
Her lawyer could not be immediately reached for comment. In a statement, USPS officials described Boyle's scheme as a rare affront to the honesty of the majority of USPS employees.
"The American public trusts that U.S. Postal Service employees will obey the law. This type of behavior within the Postal Service is not tolerated and the overwhelming majority of Postal Service employees, which serve the public, are honest, hardworking, and trustworthy individuals who would never consider engaging in any type of criminal behavior," Executive Special Agent in Charge Scott Pierce said in a statement.
The Justice official familiar with the case offered tongue-in-cheek advice.
"If you're going to defraud the government with a doctor's note, make sure to spell the name right," the official said.